The Eel

THE EEL (UNAGI) 1997

Director: Shohei Imamura

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl



Mild mannered Yamashita (Koji Yakusho) discovers his dark side when he catches his wife (Chiho Terada) in bed with another man, & brutally murders her. Eight years later he is out on parole, wracked with guilt & shame.

He has learned barbering in prison & opens a barber shop in a rural community where no one knows him. His shop becomes the primary setting of the film. When he discovers a woman (Misa Shimizu) unconscious from attempted suicide, he saves her, & is very reluctantly drawn into her life when his parole officer, the local Buddhist priest, asks him to let her work in his barber shop.

Apart from the violent murder that launches the film, this is a quiet tale of a man & a woman both broken down by their mistakes, condition & experiences. He is not open to the woman's growing affections, & only shows emotion in private moments when he is with his pet eel, whose stark aquarium & pointless existence is in Yamashita's mind the same life as his own, & he regards the eel as his only true friend.

The supporting cast of eccentric misfits drawn to the barber shop enriches this little film which is full of odd compassion & humanity. That the story will likely end in redemption & love seems inevitable, though the film never gets sentimental, & it is the journey that changes them that most matters. This film won just about every major film award offered in Japan, plus the Golden Palm at Caanes.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl



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