Bright Future seems like a strange film to come from Kurosawa Kyoshi; it's relatively light in tone, it has an unabashedly optimistic final shot, of a group of youths striding down a street to the tune of a bright pop song. Its central image, that of a jellyfish glowing in the water, is reflected all throughout the film--in the character of Mamoru (Tadanobu Asano) for one, who like the sea creature manages to be seductive, monstrous, and somehow nourishing all at once to his protege Yuji (Jo Odagiri). He fascinates Yuji, to the point that the latter is willing to wait years for them to 'do things together' (he does will his pet jellyfish toYuji to care for--which Yuji promptly loses into Tokyo's canal system); he manages to suss out Yuji's wishes, and perform the film's one blood-splattered murder for him; and he manages to be a kind of goad to Yuji's life, to finally give up his isolation and reach out to others, and to society in general.
The heart of the story, though, seems to be the relationship that forms between Yuji and Mamoru's father Shinichiro (Tatsuya Fuji, famous for playing the male lead in Oshima's In the Realm of the Senses). When Mamoru's life goes into a downward spiral, Shinichiro is forced to backtrack, to find out why his son did what he did, and the trail leads him to Yuji. The two have enough in common to form a bond: Yuji is clueless because he's young and hasn't tried to connect with anyone, Shinichiro is old and has spent his life trying to avoid connecting with anyone. Tatsuya's performance as an old man shaken from his isolation is easily the film's most moving, because Kurosawa contrasts his life, essentially a candle flickering to the point of extinction, against Yuji and other youths, who glimmer with untapped possibilities (at one point, Kurosawa shows us the lovely image of a youth gang walking up a street, every member wearing a pair of blinking headphones and glowing in the dark like a herd of, well, jellyfish). Like father, like son, like jellied pet, like slacker friends, like the movie itself, they're all a mixture of fleeting, fragile, phosphorescent beauty, hiding a set of venomous stings.
The director's interview is just as fascinating. Some highlights, noted through a quick viewing and imperfect recall:
Kurosawa admits he's always fantasized being the one behind the scenes, pulling all the strings (you can see how fascinated he is by manipulators in the number of times they've appeared in his films: the hypnotist in Cure, the kidnapper in Serpent's Path, Mamoru in this picture, to name a few).
He says he's not one to read psychology into his characters, and prefers to focus on their physical aspects (paradoxically, his characters' often perverse physical actions suggest complex and tortured inner psychologies).
He enjoys doing genre films (yakuza, horror, science fiction) because genres have conventions that he can conform to or break; a non-genre film (if there is such a creature) he doesn't have anything to get a hold on: he approaches such a project with plenty of restraint and caution.
A crew member notes that the main leads in Bright Future are all aspects of Kurosawa: age him a few years, and he's like Shinichiro; take away a few years and he's Yuji; add a menacing look, and he's like Mamoru. Kurosawa is delighted at this observation, noting that when he writes, all his characters are figments of his imagination; they lack the roundness to come to life. That's where the actor and costume designer comes in: they put in their input, their interpretation of the character, and it becomes something more solid than a mere figment, and he's grateful for the contribution.
When the film has wrapped, Kurosawa changes gears; while editing, he declares himself a dictator. He's democratic on the set, but in the editing room he's a tyrant, especially when it comes to music. Someone notes that on the set Kurosawa keeps his madness restrained, then when editing unleashes it.
His definition of a film is something people view as a group. Everyone has a different reaction to a film, and it's instructive to see how your reaction differs or conforms to the groups' reactions. It's a quick outline of your relationship with society, in what ways you are a member, in what ways you are alienated.
The director of the interview asked Kurosawa what he thought of being the subject of a film himself. Kurosawa replied that he's always changing, it's what he does, it's part of living; when he's being filmed, he's being shown an aspect of himself that he's abandoned, changed, left behind, and it's tough for him. He's of the generation that takes pictures of his life, so seeing his image isn't so bad, but when he hears his voice, on video, it's upsetting.