Friday, 19 July 2013

The Eel (Unagi) [1997]

After a hiatus of 8 long years post the profoundly affecting Black Rain, Imamura returned with The Eel, that, with its darkly comic tone and quirky subject, harkened his earlier works, albeit minus their bawdy, riotous natures – age sure had mellowed him down. Like Vengeance is Mine, this too had a murderer as its protagonist even though the two films followed completely divergent arcs. It began absolutely brilliantly with Takuro (Kōji Yakusho), a soft-spoken white-collar guy, returning home one night, upon an anonymous tip-off, to find his wife with another man. He brutally murders her in a fit of rage, and then, in a darkly funny follow-up, quietly rides to the nearest police station and hands himself over. Upon his release 8 years later begins for this now completely broken and thoroughly detached loner a poignant attempt at reconciling with his violent past that he desperately wants to escape from. Placed under the observation of a devout Buddhist, he begins the painful journey of putting the pieces of his life together with the help of an unlikely friend he makes and a fragile lady (Misa Shimizu) who he finds himself getting attached to. With intermittent doses of droll humour thrown in, even if the tar black tone of the opening sequence was replaced by a quieter and more contemplative one as it progressed, this languidly paced and superbly enacted film, with a marvelous score that perfectly accentuated the inherent absurdism and melancholia of the storyline, was proof that the then septuagenarian hadn’t yet lost his touch. And, by the way, whoever thought that an eel could be a man’s best friend!

Director: Shohei Imamura
Genre: Drama/Psychological Drama/Black Comedy/Romance
Language: Japanese
Country: Japan


Sam Juliano said...

"...with a marvelous score that perfectly accentuated the inherent absurdism and melancholia of the storyline..."

Indeed Shubhajit! You have again superbly framed teh artistry of this fascinating film by one of the major figures of the New Wave.

Shubhajit said...

Thanks Sam. Though a late, and possibly a lesser work when compared to his earlier New Wave masterpieces, it still very much deserves to be seen & appreciated.