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The Eel (1997)
"Unagi" (original title)

Not Rated  |   |  Drama  |  21 August 1998 (USA)
7.4
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Ratings: 7.4/10 from 4,123 users  
Reviews: 22 user | 40 critic

White-collar worker Yamashita finds out that his wife has a lover visiting her when he's away, suddenly returns home and kills her. After eight years in prison, he returns to live in a ... See full summary »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Takuro Yamashita
...
Keiko Hattori
Mitsuko Baishô ...
Misako Nakajima
Akira Emoto ...
Tamotsu Takasaki
Fujio Tokita ...
Jiro Nakajima
Shô Aikawa ...
Yuji Nozawa
Ken Kobayashi ...
Masaki Saito
Sabu Kawahara ...
Seitaro Misato
Etsuko Ichihara ...
Fumie Hattori
Tomorowo Taguchi ...
Eiji Dojima
Chiho Terada ...
Emiko Yamashita
Shinshô Nakamaru
Sei Hiraizumi
Seiji Kurasaki
Toshirô Ishidô
Edit

Storyline

White-collar worker Yamashita finds out that his wife has a lover visiting her when he's away, suddenly returns home and kills her. After eight years in prison, he returns to live in a small village, opens a barber shop (he was trained as a barber in prison) and talks almost to no-one except for the eel he "befriended" in prison. One day he finds the unconscious body of Keiko, who attempted suicide and reminds him of his wife. She starts to work at his shop, but he doesn't let her become close to him. Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

21 August 1998 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Eel  »

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

DEM 12,386 (Germany) (6 February 1998)

Gross:

$413,793 (USA) (28 May 1999)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

French visa # 92472 See more »

Quotes

Jiro Nakajima: Is it bad to have such rumors about a guy on parole?
See more »

Connections

Featured in Especial Cannes: 50 Anos de Festival (1997) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Truly Unpredictable, Bold, Inventive Film-making
20 March 2007 | by (Cincinnati, OH, United States) – See all my reviews

The Eel does something so imaginative and effective in the way it tells its story. It really makes the audience interact. Explaining this would ruin its effect, a sort of thing rarely experienced anymore in filmgoing. It's difficult to find movies that actually redirect your thinking and stimulate you and make you suffer in that great, fulfilling way. So, I will leave you to take my word for it. What is amazing about what The Eel does is how it really enlightens the audience when it comes to the judgment and expectations of characters. The Eel probes meticulously and sneakily the strange progression of a person.

Shohei Imamura, the film's cunning, subtle, and seemingly offbeat director, fashions the opening murder with what is in the first nanosecond of reaction aggravating and promptly recognized as a brilliant little effect. As the movie's main character stabs his cheating wife to death after slashing her frightened adulterous lover, blood sprays all over the camera, the scene becoming skewed and blurred through the bloodied lens, forcing us naturally to want to peer around it to see as clearly as we can the violence the character continues to commit. And at that point we realize, as is Imamura's intention, that we are the audience and that there is the movie, and that we are voyeurs who so badly anticipate such things as the passionately vindicating slaughter of a coldly adulterous lover. And from there, Imamura exploits the weakness he knows we have, but in what way cannot be predicted.

Later in the film, Imamura stages a ballistic, ungraceful fight that includes many characters, but with a relentlessly stationary camera. No matter how intricate certain actions get, he refuses to let it be anything more than observed. His intentions are all to make us conscious of what we are thinking as we watch these scenes. It's a creative intelligence applied more and more rarely all the time.

The cast is very carefully balanced. Certain characters are animated, some eccentric, some very stoic, and some are combinations of all three, yet they never become even remote resemblances of clichés. They are all meant to oppose or serve as comparison to each other in nature and chemistry.

Another plus is the film's purposely awkward, infectiously gawky musical score that, like most music in Japanese films, is recurrent and sustained, a repeated series of only a handful of melodies that are very memorable.


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