Cold Fish 冷たい熱帯魚
2010, colour, 16:9, 145 mins
Directed by Sono Sion (園子温)
By Derek Elley
Fri, 10 September 2010, 17:34 PM (HKT)
Another wild ride from Love Exposure director Sono Sion, in an everyday story of a mass serial killer. Festivals, especially genre and Asian, plus specialised theatrical and ancillary.
Fujimi city, Shizuoka prefecture, Japan, 19-31 January 2009. When Mitsuko (Kajiwara Hikari), the rebellious teenage daughter of Nobuyuki Shamato (Fukikoshi Mitsuru), is caught shoplifting, she's let off thanks to the intervention of Murata Yukio (Denden), who originally reported her. Murata instantly forms a bond with Nobuyuki, as the two both own tropical fish shops, and the entrepreneurial, seemingly affable Murata suggests Mitsuko joins his team of salesgirls at his flashy emporium Amazon Gold. She agrees, to get away from her young stepmother, Taeko (Kagurazaka Megumi), whom she despises. Murata then seduces the strung-up Taeko and next suggests Nobuyuki joins him as a business partner, calmly poisoning his existing partner in Amazon Gold, Yoshida (Suwa Taro), in front of Nobuyuki. Murata then bullies the craven Nobuyuki into helping him and his young wife Aiko (Kurosawa Asuka) dispose of Yoshida's corpse - his 58th victim - after cutting it up in a church on the slopes of Mt. Harakiri. Nobuyuki is separately threatened by Murata's legal advisor, Tsutsui Takayasu (Watanabe Tetsu), with whom Aiko is having an affaire, to stick with him, as Murata will one day be found out. Soon afterwards, police inspector Kawajiri Susumu (Sakata Masahiko) questions Nobuyuki over Yoshida's disappearance, suspecting that Murata is involved in the rash of missing persons in the region.
The third title to appear in the Sushi Typhoon series (after Alien vs Ninja ＡＶＮ (2010) and Mutant Girls Squad 戦闘少女 血の鉄仮面伝説 (2010)), and the first by an internationally known name, SONO Sion 園子温's Cold Fish 冷たい熱帯魚 (2010) raises the whole bar for Nikkatsu's cult gore label. Though it has none of the epic scope of Sono's Love Exposure 愛のむきだし (2008) — his masterly four-hour ode to love, obsession and anarchy — Fish presses many of the same buttons during its shorter length, with madness, sex, religion and dismembering substituting this time for Love's madness, sex, religion and pantie shots. Reportedly based on a true serial-murders case in which all the participants have remained silent, the movie once again takes a scalpel to Japanese society and, with blackly humorous exaggeration, shows it to be harbouring complete insanity beneath its rigorously stratified surface.
The result is somewhere between a pink film and serial-killer genre movie, as a quiet, unambitious owner of a tropical fish shop (the film's Japanese title) has his life and family taken over by a fellow fish entrepreneur who happens to be, along with his slutty young wife, a mad murderer. Without the tour-de-force performance of veteran actor Denden でんでん, who completely dominates the film, Cold Fish may never have worked: from his first appearance as a bluff, friendly showman who extends a helping hand to the central dysfunctional family, and then promptly seduces the wife in his office, Denden energises the picture, with nominal star FUKIKOSHI Mitsuru 吹越満's Nobuyuki dragged along in his jet stream. But as other characters come into play, including KUROSAWA Asuka 黒沢あすか's trashily amoral wife and WATANABE Tetsu 渡辺哲's gruff legal advisor, the movie becomes more than just a one-performance showcase. There's some slack in the middle section, but when Nobuyuki's worm finally turns, the wait is worthwhile.
Like Love, the script has a single-purpose drive that seems to express a working out of some personal emotion within Sion: there's no typical three-act structure, more one continuous act that careens towards a final emotional pile-up. From the opening scene of Nobuyuki's wife shopping in a supermarket, the movie lets the audience know that something's not quite right with his seemingly perfect family — and when the script suddenly throws in an anarchic sequence between mother and daughter, the audience knows that something is definitely not right. Though there's considerable gore on display, it's largely cartoonish. Cold Fish is not so much a blood-and-guts horror movie, more a danse macabre about social breakdown.
Sion's eclectic casting once again pays dividends, with Fukikoshi (Samurai Fiction ＳＦ／サムライ・フィクション (1998), The Twilight Samurai たそがれ清兵衛 (2002)) justifying his role in the final half-hour, former bikini model KAGURAZAKA Megumi 神楽坂恵 (Hanky-Panky Baby 窓辺のほんきーとんく (2008), Spy Girl's Mission Cord #005 新スパイガール大作戦 ～惑星からの侵略者～ (2008)) showing real class as Nobuyuki's svelte wife, and Kurosawa (About Love, Tokyo 愛について、東京 (1992), A Snake of June 六月の蛇 (2002)) having a whale of a time as Murata's slutty wife/accomplice. Sion's visual style varies between copious handheld work and more formal compositions but is hardly noticeable as everything is at the service of the characters and story.
ContactSales: Nikkatsu, Tokyo (Asia-Pacific: email@example.com; Rest of the world: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Premiere: Venice Film Festival (Orrizonti), 7 Sep 2010. Theatrical release: Japan, 29 Jan 2011.
Presented by Nikkatsu (JP), in association with Sushi Typhoon. Produced by Stair Way (JP). Executive producers: Sugihara Akifumi. Producers: Chiba Yoshinori, Kiimura Toshiki.
Script: Sono Sion, Takahashi Yoshiki. Photography: Kimura Shinya. Editor: Ito Junichi. Music: Harada Tomohide. Production design: Matsuzuka Takashi. Costume designer: Araki Satoe. Sound: Komiya Hajime. Action: Sakaguchi Tak. Special effects: Nishimura Yoshihiro.
Cast: Fukikoshi Mitsuru (Shamoto Nobuyuki), Denden (Murata Yukio), Kurosawa Asuka (Murata Aiko, Yukio's wife), Kagurazaka Megumi (Shamoto Taeko, Nobuyuki's wife), Kajiwara Hikari (Shamoto Mitsuko, Nobuyuki's daughter), Watanabe Tetsu (Tsutsui Takayasu), Suwa Taro (Yoshida, Murata's business partner), Pe Jyonmyon (Okubo Hiroshi, Tsutsui's driver)), Miura Masaki (Yoshida's brother), Ashikawa Makoto (supermarket manager), Sakata Masahiko (Kawajiri Susumu, police inspector), Seto Natsuo (Sawada Yuko, Mitsuko's work colleague).