VIFF – COLD FISH (2010) – The Dungeon Review!
Film number two at The Vancouver International Film Festival was a Saturday afternoon showing of Cold Fish. Cold Fish is a Japanese drama/thriller and according to its cover, is “inspired by true events”. I have no idea how faithful the film is to the actual events but it is one hell of a ride regardless! Cold Fish is tragic, funny, violent, demented, unique and a completely hypnotizing experience. That’s a lot of adjectives for one sentence, but this film earned it!
Shamoto, the meek owner of a small tropical fish store is told his teenage daughter Mitsuko has been caught shoplifting. With new wife (and step mom) Taeko in tow they go to meet with the manager. The meeting does not go well until the customer who accused Mitsuko speaks up. The customer, Murata-san is a jovial and boisterous man who convinces the manager not to call the authorities and give Mitsuko a second chance. Shamoto and Taeko are extremely grateful and when Murata requests they accompany him to his store they happily agree. Murata, by chance also sells tropical fish except he drives a Ferrari and his massive store Amazon Gold has an army of employees. He takes them on a tour, introduces them to his wife and they share some tea. He even offers to employ Mitsuko, suggesting it might help keep her out of trouble. The two families become joined at the hip and Shamoto finds himself in a partnership with Murata. But the seemingly jolly and fun-loving Murata-san may not be the good-natured guy he appears.
Cold Fish has style but it isn’t flashy. The images on display evoke the proper amount of emotion whether it is disgust, anger or empathy with effective simplicity that suited the film well. Not to say the film lacks creativity by any means. Shion Sono’s opening scene sets the pace for the rest of the film so beautifully. We watch Taeko grocery shopping like she is on crack. Speeding through aisles throwing packages after package at breakneck speed into her shopping cart. Than we watch her make an entire meal in about 2 minutes and the camera rests on the dysfunction family as they eat in complete silence. Cold Fish is calm and frantic in equal measure. Shamoto and Taeko are quiet and soft-spoken and their home and work environment reflect that. Murata and his wife are the polar opposites and are eccentric, loud and aggressive. When the two worlds collide friction is inevitable.
The performances are top notch, particularly Denden who plays the crazy Murata with such dangerously joyful enthusiasm. Mitsuru Fukikoshi also does a great job as the painfully meek Shamoto (although my one and only minor complaint about the film relates to the development of this character). The three women, Taeko, Mitsuko and Murata’s wife (sorry I don’t even know the characters name!) do a hell of a job also. I wasn’t able to find a list of the character names, so sadly I can’t give the actresses their proper due. Every character is interesting and quirky, even the minor players, and their actions kept me glued to the screen. Cold Fish clocks in around 144 minutes and has a great rhythmic pace. It reveals its warped little secrets steadily throughout its runtime. Cold Fish is full of fascinating, strange and violent surprises. There is more gore and violence than a lot of horror films and they throw in some sex and nudity for good measure. No joking, there are scenes that will be difficult for some viewers to watch.
Cold Fish knocked my socks off. Except for a minor complaint about the development of the Shamoto character, I thought the film was amazing. Its twisted story, unforgettable visuals, and fascinating characters thrilled me from start to finish. I look forward to rewatching Cold Fish when it makes its way to DVD and I will certainly be checking out Shion Sono’s other films. The squeamish should avoid, but everyone else should definitely check this one out. Highest of recommendations!
Dungeon Rating: 5/5
Directed By: Shion Sono
Starring: Makoto Ashikawa, Denden, Mitsuru Fukikoshi, Megumi Kagurazaka, Hikari Kajiwara, Asuka Kurosawa, Masaki Miura, Jyonmyon Pe, Masahiko Sakata, Tarô Suwa, Tetsu Watanabe