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MARCH 30 » 9:30p

NEW ENGLAND PREMIERE

2010, Japan, 145 min.
Director: Sion Sono Screenwriters: Sion Sono, Yoshiki Takahashi
Cast: Mitsuru Fukikoshi, Denden, Asuka Kurosawa, Megumi Kagurazaka

View the Trailer

Renegade Japanese auteur Sion Sono returns to BUFF with his latest film, the (sort of) true crime serial killer drama Cold Fish. As with most of Sono’s work, it’s hard to pigeonhole this one into any sort of box. Is it a comedy? Is it a tragedy? This film revisits the hauntingly surreal territory that Sono has mined before to great effect in the past, recalling his breakthrough hit Suicide Club. Both films deal with violence, heartbreak, and humor in equal measure, refusing any easy answers to the film’s myriad questions.

Cold Fish tells the story of Shamoto (Mitsuru Fukikoshi), the proprietor of an exotic fish store, who becomes a reluctant accomplice to a series of increasingly violent crimes. When Shamoto’s teenage daughter Mitsuko is arrested for shoplifting, Shamoto is surprised to find that she has been bailed out of jail by rival fish store owner Murata. As Shamoto grows closer to Murata, he gradually becomes entangled in the latter’s sinister murder schemes.

The various twists and turns the plot takes would be difficult (and spoilery) to unravel here, but let’s say it involves familial tensions, bitter insecurtities, and heaps and heaps of dead bodies. In other words, all the makings of a classic tragedy. But the film’s buckets of gore, over-the-top histrionics, and sharp social satire prevent Cold Fish from becoming your typical genre fare. Sono balances the film on the razor’s edge between black comedy and grisly tragedy, always in danger of veering too close to one extreme, but always returning (in sometimes startling ways) to the center.

Brevity has never been Sono’s strong suit. Last year’s festival opened with his brilliant Love Exposure, a sprawling four hour ode to religion, lust, family, and upskirt photography. Cold Fish, clocking in at a comparatively brief two-anda-half hours, feels tighter and more focused, although this film is hardly a minimalist affair. Sono takes his time to fully develop his grandiose and heady themes. He’s not your typical filmmaker and this isn’t your typical slasher film. This is Greek tragedy meets J-horror. This is a film that could not have been made by anyone but Sion Sono.

— Bryan McKay