In a poor 19th century rural Japanese village, everyone who reaches the age of 70 has to climb a nearby mountain to die. An old woman is getting close to the cut-off age, and we follow her last days with her family.
Near the turbulent end of the Edo era, a man returning to Japan after exile in America searches for his wife and becomes swept up in the current of revolution in this incisive period drama from the great Shohei Imamura.
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
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.
3 of 4 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?
| Report this