Day one in Vancouver hardly counted. My plan to catch at least three films after my arrival was shot down by 1) a sick pilot, 2) a broken plane and 3) no bag. And while that all kinda sucks, I was still able to take in a movie. Cold Fish sort of capped off my crappy day with this though: things could be worse!
Cold Fish (2010)
Shion Sono's Cold Fish, his follow-up to his 2008 megalomaniacal 3 1/2 hour epic Love Exposure, is far more focused and fleshed out but it is also far more somber in its damnation of family culture and modern social schemas. Dubiously based on a true story, Cold Fish charts an emasculated family man's journey to the edge of his violent misogynistic psyche. Shamoto is a mild mannered fish shop owner who is psychologically beaten down by his unresponsive teenage daughter and his frigid wife. Soon we find out that there is a seriously twisted hierarchy in the household that seems to be careening out of control. Until Murata steps in, that is. Murata, a competing but much more successful fish shop owner, wants to set the patriarchal record straight and adopts Shamoto and his family under his sadistic wing. Nothing that happens will come as a surprise to those familiar with Sono's films, but the dark mood just gets darker and the humor gets less humorous. Most of the audience was squirming during the brutal grand finale. Cold Fish feels like a transition into serious filmmaking for Sono, with gravitating performances and solid production. The opening montage is a tightly wound visual allegory to the barbarity that lies just beneath the surface of modern domestication. But the chaos in which most of Sono's films rely on is not so joyful in Cold Fish. Just over two hours, Cold Fish is a rigorous and unrelenting experience. (It is worth noting that Cold Fish is one of the initial titles for Sushi Typhoon, a North American launching pad for Nikkatsu, a very exciting development in the distribution of Japanese films in the US.)