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“Ye shall be judged after death…”
When you hear the name Sushi Typhoon what happens? Do you get excited? Are you apprehensive? Do you know what the hell I am talking about?
Sushi Typhoon is a Japanese powerhouse of directors – including Takashi Miike, Yoshihiro Nishimura, and Sion Sono – who banded together (as a subsidiary of Nikkatsu) with the intent of getting their horror, science fiction, and fantasy films exposed to an international audience. Currently, their release list only includes seven films – but to be fair, Sushi Typhoon was formed only last year. Included in those magical seven titles is ‘Mutant Girls Squad‘ – one of the newest entries in the J-splat genre with 1/3 of the movie being directed by ‘Tokyo Gore Police’ visionary Yoshihiro Nishimura, and ‘Cold Fish’ – a dark and unforgiving tale from the mind of Sion Sono – director of ‘Suicide Circle’ and ‘Strange Circus’. If one appreciates the (much) darker side of foreign cinema, it is in your best interest to keep an eye on Sushi Typhoon – a few are on Netflix streaming currently, and in the meantime, check out “Cold Fish” – available on DVD and Blu-ray now.
‘Cold Fish’ is the tale of a painfully awkward and pathetic loser named Nobuyuki Syamoto. Syamoto is a man who, judging by just his face alone, is lost in life – he is not happy, and he hasn’t been in a long time. He dreams of a perfect life with his wife and daughter and his mediocre fish store, but his reality is nothing but mundane and a drag. Actor Mitsuru Fukikoshi conveys an almost consistent annoyance with life in just his facial expressions – his surroundings have devolved him into a shell of a person, void of any spine, any hope, and any life.
Syamoto’s daughter, Mitsuko (BATTLE ROYALE!…ok, not really), is caught stealing, and rival fish-store owner Yukio Murata offers to help the troubled teen by hiring her at his oh-so-much-better fish store. Murata is at least 45 years old, but comes off as a playful child, proclaiming “business is entertainment” and playfully injects himself into the middle of Syamoto’s family by ‘stealing’ his daughter, and seducing his wife – and passive Syamoto just lets it all happen.
Then – a turning point – a meeting between investors goes wrong and the true colors of Murata are shown – we see his jubilant child act is just that – a façade. He is really a calculated killer, claiming this is his 58th kill(!) He ropes Syamoto into helping him dispose the body and the movie takes a ‘Goodfellas’ approach with Syamoto’s descent into darkness…
This being Sion Sono’s 29th film, one familiar with his work will most assuredly recognize his dark humor right away. ‘Cold Fish’ is a brutal, unforgiving film…yet…to the macabre-familiar, there is a humorous overtone to it all – how many times did you chuckle, even as body parts were being disposed of? It could be because ‘Cold Fish’ follows the basic rule of a comedy – a good person finds himself in increasingly worse situations – that this overtone exists, or maybe the humor is needed to alleviate the pressure off your skull as you descend into madness with Syamoto, regardless, it’s appreciated.
The most beautiful aspect of this film, besides Tomohide Harada’s hauntingly perfect score, is the metamorphosis of Syamoto. He starts at the bottom of the totem pole and, after exposure to both horrible acts (lots of them) and the straight-up abuse from Murata, he snaps – he begins to change – and this is expected – what protagonist is complete without SOME kind of transformation, good or bad, and he becomes a monster. The unconventional part of Syamoto’s metamorphosis is that it doesn’t stop once he hits where he needs to be – assertive and dominant – no…there’s no off-switch for this lad, and he blows right past catharsis and becomes a full-blown monster; but perhaps this is more realistic?
Speaking of realistic, “Cold Fish” was based loosely on the case of Gen Sekine and his wife Hiroko Kazama. The case is known as the “Saitama serial murders of dog lovers (translated)” and has a Charles Manson-esque fan-base of followers (because why not?) Sekine and Kazama killed four people, not 58+, dismembered their bodies, burned the remains, and spread them in a river and forest – all of this seen in ‘Cold Fish’
Clocking in at 145 minutes, “Cold Fish” will hit you hard, especially the last 25 minutes – when Syamoto’s transformation is at its dark apex. It will probably leave a bad taste in your mouth, but if you didn’t want that, why the fuck are you watching a Sion Sono film?
If you dig this film, I highly recommend some of Sono’s other films – ‘Suicide Circle’, ‘Noriko’s Dinner Table’, ‘Strange Circus’, and the four-hour odd-as-Hell epic ‘Love Exposure’.
“…and in front of him lay not death, but annihilation.”
– George Orwell, 1984