Big Bang Love: Delinquent A is a surreal prison love drama from one of the reigning iconoclasts of Japanese cinema. Takashi Miike is best known for making some of the most graphically violent films ever — at the 2001 screening of Ichi The Killer, the Toronto International Film Festival handed out barf bags stamped with the film’s logo. But Miike has made everything from sweet children’s films and campy musicals to sumptuous period pieces and solid character studies. His latest film proves the filmmaker cannot be nailed down.
In Big Bang Love, introverted and slight Ariyoshi (Ryuhie Matsuda), an employee at a gay bar, finds himself in jail alongside the violent and muscular Kazuki (Masanobu Ando) — both are in for murder. Their slow, aching love affair develops against a backdrop of violence, seething desire and strange hauntings.
The movie opens oddly. Pay attention: Much of the film is explained in the first two scenes. A dense, metaphysical musing on the nature of time and light is followed by a dynamic dance solo intercut with a lecture from an old man to a young boy about inheriting his father’s strength in a seeming traditional ritual that “hands down manly vigour.”
Once the story moves inside the prison, short intense episodes of violence punctuate a dark and brooding set that seems to exist out of time and place — often settings are defined by light alone, with props reduced to an almost symbolic level. The darkness occasionally opens up onto bold tableaux and stunning vistas. The film employs a range of devices: faces merge into one another, on-screen text replaces some dialogue, frames break (in all senses of the term), flashbacks, scenes repeat and time is fucked over in all manner of ways. Time, like light, refracts suggesting these characters carry their history — personal and cultural — around with them, that all time exists at the same time.
The jumble of cinematic devices can bewilder but Miike’s film is never less than bewitching.
With Big Bang Love (the Japanese title translates as 4.6 Billion Years Of Love), Miike explores the roots of male violence in Japan — the violence he loves to portray elsewhere — and he strongly hints at widespread sexual abuse. But nothing is straightforward. Abuse is a black hole pulling the story forward, bending laws and light; everything revolves around its darkness.
In the words of the opening monologue: “Your eyes open… revealing the setting of this story. Here painful young men exist. Here boys lost in their time.”