Quiet and meek, Shamoto (Mitsuru Fukikoshi) has been beaten into submission by the mundane demands of everyday life. He’s in an awkward relationship with his beautiful but shy second wife, who still hasn’t been accepted by his rebellious teenaged daughter, Mitsuko. Shamoto’s one remaining joy is running a small tropical fish store.
When Mitsuko is caught shoplifting, the friendly Murata (Denden) helps her distraught parents by settling things with the store’s manager. Murata, who owns a tropical fish store called Amazon Gold, immediately forms a bond with fellow fish connoisseur Shamoto and offers to help his wayward daughter, giving her a job that comes conveniently with room and board. The conflict between Mitsuko and her stepmom appears to be finally solved.
Shamoto is drawn into business with the outgoing Murata, unaware that behind his friendly demeanor lurks a dangerous sociopath. Murata and his wife have a history of fraud and murder, disposing of their prey in an elaborate, ritualistic and grisly manner. Taken in by Murata’s easygoing charm, Shamoto realizes the man’s true nature too late and becomes implicated in the madman’s bloody crimes.
Madness is a familiar theme for Sion Sono, who has made nearly twenty films in the last thirty years. His work remains relatively unknown outside of fanboy and J-Horror circles, where films like Suicide Club and Love Exposure (his four-hour-long opus of fetishism, romance and religion) have gained cult status.
Cold Fish sees Sono reaching an impressive new level. He shows firm control of this gruesome subject; he never allows it to stray into exploitation or sensationalism and skillfully balances tense drama with outrageous black humour. What makes the film all the more shocking is that it is based on the real case of a serial killer who murdered more than fifty people. While Fukikoshi whimpers and cowers at the horrific crimes playing out before him, Denden steals the show with his gregarious, alpha-male portrayal of the cold-blooded Murata – the Japanese equivalent of Sweeney Todd. –TIFF
Sion Sono (園 子温 Sono Shion, born 1961) is a controversial filmmaker and poet. He was born in Toyokawa, Aichi, Japan and is best known for his movies and avant-garde poetry performances.
After receiving a fellowship with the PIA, Sono made his first feature-length 16 mm film in 1990, Bicycle Sighs (Jitensha Toiki), which he co-wrote, directed, and starred himself. A coming-of-age tale about two underachievers in the perfectionist Japan, Bicycle Sighs settled Sono as a director with great box office success in Japan, and for nearly two years was played over 30 film festivals around Europe and Asia. In 1992, Sono’s second feature film The Room (Heya), also written by himself, a bizarre tale about a serial killer looking for a room in a bleak, doomed Tokyo district, participated at the Tokyo Sundance Film Festival and won the Special Jury Prize. The Room also toured on 49 festivals worldwide, including the Berlin Film Festival and… read more
Wow. What an absolutely riveting experience. So far, the best I've seen Sono. It does get a little rushed in it's wackiness near the end (which, to me, is a Sono staple) which left it's final 10 minutes a little unsatisfying, but the 2 hrs leading up to it are one mad, bleak, harrowing trip. A gore-filled allegory for the cut throat world of business and modern day masculinity in Japan.
The four-hour whatsit Love Exposure reappears in New York and San Francisco.
"Let it not be said that this session of Film Comment Selects lacks a consistency of vision," writes Nick Pinkerton in the Voice, previewing
A depraved, gory, misogynistic cartoon of a film with some giddy performances and increasingly outrageous developments. I think it would have been improved occasionally by attending a bit more to credibility… read review