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DVD Review: ‘Cold Fish’

★★★★☆

Depending upon your source, reactions to Shion Sono’s latest opus Cold Fish (2010) has drawn a wide range of divergent repsonses. It has been called outrageous and pointlessly violent or ground breaking, gripping and challenging. Whichever side of this argument one might place it under, Shion Sono’s Cold Fish is certainly not an easy film to stomach.

Cold Fish (Tsumetai nettaigyo) promises to tell the true story of Gen Sekine, an exotic dog breeder and serial killer. Sono remains in the world of animals but transports the narrative into the world of exotic fish breeders and salesmen. One of them, Shamoto, leads a depressing middle-class lifestyle, inside a failing second marriage to Taeko and with a rebellious and resentful teenage daughter (Mitsuko) who resents her mother. Their small flat on top of the fish shop they run is a goldfish bowl of tension that overflows unpredictably as the story unfolds.

Shamoto and his family meet Murata at a supermarket Mistuko was caught trying to shoplift in. Suspiciously jolly and sociable, Murata gets Mitsuko out of trouble and forces himself into their lives, pushing everyone of them towards the inevitable tragedy. Within the space of one night, Murata and Shamoto’s family have become close friends and, as the days go by, his influence grows in their lives, to the point where he seduces Taeko and convinces them to let Mitsuko move out of their house and come work with him. More importantly, Murata makes reluctant Shamoto his business partner forcefully and befriends all of them with his wife Aiko who acts as a liaising instrument in all of Murata’s affairs.

Suspicion is justified when it is revealed that the fish are just a cover for Murata’s favourite pastime, that of ‘making people invisible’. The new associate and business partner becomes an accomplice to the cold blooded sacrifices hat take place in the mountain shack and is forced to witness the pathological well process of chopping victims up and reducing them to invisibility. Police are suspicious of the successful fish shop owner and try to obtain information from Shamoto but Murata has a strong grip on the half-dead middle aged man whose only joy in life is the planetarium.

The violence in Cold Fish is so visceral, it’s almost touchable. There were a number of scenes where my stomach twisted into knots and I thought I could feel the lukewarm blood splatter on my face during the never ending scenes of body dismemberings. But what is more shocking than that is the psychological violence that the hapless characters endure throughout the film. Looks, gestures and words are all orchestrated into a multi-layered process of manipulation and blackmail and it was easier to look at the grisly body parts than to watch a man being forced to endure the tragedy of his life.

As is customary with a Sone film the cinematography works perfectly with the theme of the movie; Cold Fish is beautifully shot in terms of colour and composition –there is a certain coldness that every shot has embued within.

Although not particularly a Friday night pocorn night kind of horror film film, I would be lying if I said I truly enjoyed watching it, it is difficult to find any flaws in Cold Fish. This story is a believable one and leave’s you feeling suitalbe dirty and more than just a little bit cold at the end. Frozen maybe. A fine entry in the growing catalogue of Shion Sono films. 

Sabina Pasaniuc (CUEAFS)