Monday, August 22, 2011

I'll Take My Fish Pan-Seared, Please

The reason a bomb explodes with such outward force is due to rapidly expanding gases being confined to a much smaller than required space. In the blink of an eye, what was once an explosive substance the side of a deck of cards now requires the volume to contain outward rushing force the size of a dump truck. It’s this combination of confining space and raging force which creates a devastating blast.

These concepts can be applied in practice to other biological and chemical situations. Take the human being for instance. I’m not suggesting that we fill one fine specimen with C4 and measure the result (something I’m sure will make it into a Saw film at some point). Instead, take the example presented us in the Japanese physiological horror film, Cold Fish. This is the perfect proof of concept to demonstrate what happens when a person’s mind endures more than it can reasonably be expected to contain, much too quickly.

From Midnight Cheese

Have you heard of Cold Fish? It’s the new crazy Japanese thriller from Shion Sono who, among other things, directed the strange and indulgent Suicide Club. It’s billed as based on the real life events, the strange case of dog store owner slash husband and wife serial killers. In the film’s case, we’ve switched out dog store owners and substituted fish store owners. I’m jumping a head into this slow burning sizzler though.

As Cold Fish begins to unfold, we’re brought directly into the plodding and expectations-failing lives of the Syamoto family. Our protagonist, widower Nobuyuki, owns a middling tropical fish store which seems to exist somewhere between totally failing and teeth scrapping by. Taeko is his second (younger, bustier) wife, not adjusting well to her new life as a domestic, cooking dinner in their meager accommodations at the back of the store. Mitsuko is Nobuyuki’s daughter. She resents her stepmom, who is closer in age to her than her father, and completely resents the meager life which her parents are providing for her.

From Midnight Cheese

After setting the table, for our story as well as dinner, Mitsuko is caught robbing a store. Her parents are incredibly shamed when they arrive to pick her up. Seriously, I’ve never seen two people bowing and asking for forgiveness as many times as the Syamotos do. They are depicted as the honor driven, upstanding Japanese couple who would do anything to avoid shame and dishonor. They’re very tightly bound people, keeping everything under control, including how miserable that are. It’s very opposite to western sensibilities. They couldn’t be any more down on their luck and miserable.

Enter Murata, a very boisterous, friendly, talkative and ultimately pushy person. He always gets his way. Observing the shame of the Syamotos, Murata steps in to talk them out of trouble with store security. By a very strange coincidence, he also owns a tropical fish store. Ah but his store is very large, very successful, very extravagant…very western. He insists that Mitsuko should come work and live at his store, giving her purpose, getting her away from a stepmom she hates and a mediocre life at her parent’s store.

From Midnight Cheese

But Murata’s intentions aren’t altruistic; else this would probably be a completely different genre of film. The nature of he and his wife’s mental damage is for you, the viewer, to discover on your own. I will tell you that the gore is spread around in the film, doled out in meal sized assaults to your senses. It never lasts over long and it’s more absurd than disgusting. It does reach Evil Dead 2 levels of comedic gold, but it’s not meant to. It unsettles us, just as it unsettles Syamoto. Reverence for the dead is not a thing to be found here.

Even though this is 144 minutes, it never feels over long. Rather, Cold Fish feels like an arduous journey to the breaking point; to madness but not back. A resolution IS reached, but for whom? Cold Fish hits DVD shelves tomorrow thanks to Bloody Disgusting Selects.

From Midnight Cheese

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