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Thursday, September 22, 2011

COLD FISH -- DVD review by porfle

The horrifically graphic gore and extreme perversion of COLD FISH (2010) is presented in such an offhand, matter-of-fact way that it's interesting to see what the next outrage will be and how the main character, a timid milquetoast named Mr. Shamoto, will react to it.  My own reaction was to gaze intently for almost two-and-a-half hours and marvel at what a delightfully whacked-out movie I was looking at. 

Nobuyuki Shamoto is a humble fish store owner with an unhappy wife, Taeko (Megumi Kagurazaka), and a violently bratty daughter, Mitsuko (Hikari Kajiwara), who despises both him and her stepmother.  He yearns for the ordered tranquility to be found at the local planetarium, but instead is cast into a living hell when he meets the charming and wildly gregarious Mr. Murata, owner of a vastly superior fish store.  Murata rescues Nobuyuki's daughter from a shoplifting charge and puts her to work in his own fish store, offering Nobuyuki a lucrative partnership as well.  But the gratitude Nobuyuki initially feels turns to horror when he discovers what kind of man Murata really is.

Murata and his sexually voracious wife Aiko turn out to be a gleefully sociopathic pair of serial killers who bilk people out of money, murder them, and make them "invisible" by disassembling their bodies in a mountaintop shack.  Shamoto gets sucked into all of this as a lackey and "apprentice", with Murata threatening to kill his family if he doesn't comply.  The "invisibility" process boasts some of the most graphic gore I've ever seen in a movie, but the two giggling psychos perform this grisly task with such lighthearted enthusiasm that the effect is strangely comedic.

Mitsuru Fukikoshi does a great job portraying Shamoto's growing fear and mortification as his association with Murata spirals ever downward.  As Aiko, Asuka Kurosawa deftly switches between playful sex kitten and intimidating killer and is the ideal companion in crime for Murata.  But it's (the singularly-named) Denden as Mr. Murata whose energetic, inventive, and wholly fascinating performance makes COLD FISH such a riveting film.  At times almost a fatherly mentor to Shamoto, Murata is also dangerously unstable and unpredictable, and we never know what the hell he's going to do, or who he's going to kill, next. 

Japanese director Shion Sono (LOVE EXPOSURE, SUICIDE CLUB) shows his sense of humor in the opening sequence by shooting, editing, and scoring Taeko's disinterested shopping and microwave dinner preparation as though it were a suspense scene, then jarringly cutting to the family eating in joyless silence and ignoring each other.  When Murata's initially clownish behavior turns to shocking acts of violence and debauchery, his utter brazenness has a comic edge to it.  And his tutoring of a nervous Shamoto on how to lie to some gangsters who come looking for a missing family member also elicits giddy laughs despite our sympathy for the terrified Shamoto. 

The story rushes headlong into a whirlwind of scary and over-the-top incidents until Shamoto finally reaches his breaking point, with Mitsuru Fukikoshi's performance taking on an unnervingly realistic tone even as Shamoto's actions become more wildly deranged.  While many viewers will have become numbed to the violence and gore by this point, some of the blood-soaked final encounters between the main characters are simply mindboggling.  Shion Sono catches it all with a fluid handheld camera, with some impressive long takes that allow the actors to play out certain scenes to the hilt.

The DVD from Vivendi and Bloody Disgusting is in 1.85:1 widescreen with 5.1 Japanese stereo and English subtitles.  The sole extra is a brief interview with director Shion Sono.

A frenetic, exhilarating experience for those in search of something completely different, COLD FISH is both realistic and just plain balls-out nuts.  It claims to be based on true events, and, while that doesn't mean much these days, I pity anyone who ever experienced anything even remotely resembling what happens in this movie.

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