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Cold Fish - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Tsumetai nettaigyo

Japan 2010

Drama, Thriller

Sion Sono

Mitsuru Fukikoshi
Megumi Kagurazaka
Asuka Kurosawa
Hikari Kajiwara
Tetsu Watanabe

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Cold Fish

Story: Shamato (Mitsuru Fukikoshi) owns a fish shop. His daughter Mitsuko (Hikari Kajiwara) is filled with overwhelming hatred towards her father because he remarried shortly after her mother's death. Her stepmother Taeko (Megumi Kagurazaka) is smitten with remorse as she believes that she is responsible for the rebellious attitude of the daughter. Shamato doesn't really bother with those problems but one day his daughter is caught stealing at a shop. However, Murata (Denden), who also owns a fish shop, is able to see to it that Mitsuko doesn't get any trouble. He even invites Shamato and his family to his fish shop and offers them to let Mitsuko work at his shop. Murata's wife (Asuka Kurosawa) also contributes to convincing the parents that this is a good chance to reintegrate Mitsuko into society. In the end it leads to Mitsuko more and more growing apart from her parents, though. Furthermore, Murata has a gruesome secret of which Shamato soon becomes a part of...

Review: After "Love Exposure" Sion Sono carries his "hate"-trilogy to the next level. "Cold Fish" revolves around a family father who at all times defers to the will of others and whose world slowly falls apart, since he isn't capable of getting his way. At the same time it is also a drama about a damaged family and a humoristic study about a serial killer. The movie can be quite bloody at some points, yet it never loses its character-exploring focus on the events and thus never degenerates into a cheap gore fest. The depicted individuals are all broken souls in their own way, almost having no hope left for catharsis, but as it is often with Sion's films you can never predict how things will turn out in the end.

Cold Fish - Film Screenshot 11

Pretty often family stands in the center of director Sion's works. The collapse of family and a possible rapprochement more reminds us of "Noriko's Dinner Table" than of "Love Exposure", though. Anyway, in particular the movie is about one certain individual, the shy and easily shapeable Shamato. That means that this time we get to see the events in the movie almost solely from one perspective. The worker who never learned to think critically isn't something extraordinary in a drama from Japan, but the situations Shamato finds himself in certainly are. With a good amount of black humor involved Shamato suddenly finds himself being an accomplice in a murder and helps getting rid of a body. It's not just him but the viewer as well who then asks himself how exactly things just turned out that way!

Cold Fish - Film Screenshot 12

The unexpected events have something surreal about them, which resembles the feeling you get when seeing yourself being confronted with an extreme situation in real life. Shamato is so shocked and stunned by what he sees that it's even more easy to direct him and make him act according to Murata's orders like a puppet. Soon you have drawn parallels. Shamato can neither stand up to the serial killer nor to his family. That makes him spiral downward into a deep abyss and the danger that he suddenly cracks and Shamato himself becomes crazy is constantly lying in the air like electric tension. The path leading into madness is after all also a theme the director has touched in his prior works several times. The question is if there is also a chance of catharsis.

Mitsuru Fukikoshi ("The Twilight Samurai") delivers a convincing performance, but in respect of acting Denden ("Cure") as the extroverted serial killer with the talent to depict every murder as something natural wins over the viewer's heart. Since Sion Sono is making use of long shots without any cuts especially often this time there is also a strong need of an outstanding actor like him. Without him and a few other good members of the supporting cast the film would have felt even colder than it already does. The emotional distance still remains a problem, though, which at times is more present in the movies of the director and at others less. This time it's pretty apparent. Sadly, this also leads to the actually good ending working solely on a superficial level.

Cold Fish - Film Screenshot 13

As not to be expected otherwise there are also some erotic scenes to be found, but really distinct is the extent of blood and body parts shown on the screen. Since the act of killing itself is never really brutal, instead we are shown how bodies are chopped up, and this at times with a lot of black humor, those scenes are a lot easier to endure than you would expect. Sion Sono doesn't aim for an audience that is into blood and guts on the screen - he will win it over nonetheless - but he wants to shock and by doing so shed light on his themes of family or the transformation of a too distinctively peace-loving human into a potential serial killer, while at the same time underlining everything with a certain weltschmerz. The characters unfortunately lack a bit of color and the drama is too cold, but Sion Sono nonetheless once again delivers a good movie.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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