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  • Benjamin May

Cold Fish (2010) Review

Nobuyuki Syamoto is an unassuming fellow running an unremarkable tropical fish shop in Shizuoka prefecture. His life is dreary at best and at worst untenable: his wife is tired of him and his daughter hates them both. After the daughter is caught shoplifting, an eccentric, gregarious rival fish seller by the name of Yukio Murata smooths the matter over, inviting Syamoto to his much grander shop to meet his wife. Murata decides to give the daughter a job, and it seems the two families are destined for friendship. Before long the whole Syamoto family are under Murata and his wife's spell; and their intentions for them prove to be far less than honorable.


Sion Sono's 'Cold Fish' is a terrific, stylish thriller full of black humor, psychological horror and gory, unexpected moments. Inspired by the case of Sekine Gen and Hiroko Kazama- the perpetrators of the infamous Saitama Dog Lover Murders- the film is sharply written by Sono and Yoshiki Takahashi, constantly feeling fresh and inventive in its' approach to the material. The humor comes fast and frequent, though it's of a dark kind not everyone will find to their tastes. Though the story concerns murder and madness, it's also about control, about how Murata and his wife insinuate themselves into the lives of the Syamotos, changing them irrevocably. It's a twisted, bloody tale for sure; but it's also one that'll make you think.

Under Sono's watchful gaze, Shinya Kimura brings us stylish, striking cinematography. It is naturalistic, atmospheric work that makes sublime use of colour and shadow, with Murata's aquatic emporium being shot in a particularly interesting fashion. Takashi Matsuzuka's lush production design makes for detailed, realistic looking environments, with the two fish shops being especially visually striking and rich. Satoe Araki's costume design is arguably less interesting, though some of his work for the female side of the cast is splendid and memorable.


Editor Jun'ichi Itô has worked numerous times with Sono- most recently on 2017's 'Tokyo Vampire Hotel'- and the two share a fruitful working relationship. Itô's work is intuitive and rhythmic, bringing the film together masterfully and making the nearly two-and-a-half-hour runtime fly by. Tomohide Harada's score must also be mentioned, as it is eerily beautiful and evocative work that heightens the film's tension and drama. Harada also makes effective use of pieces from the likes of Mahler that merge well with his original score and complement the film.

'Cold Fish' has a great cast all performing at the top of their games. Mitsuru Fukikoshi stars as Nobuyuki Syamoto, giving a grounded performance of depth and range that will impress any who see the film. He is the straight man of the piece, and he carries 'Cold Fish' through crazed, bloody situations with an ease few actors could pull off. Downtrodden, then startled, and finally exasperated, Fukikoshi runs the full gamut of emotions and never once comes across as melodramatic or over-blown.


Denden gives the performance of his life as the charming, sinister and rather mad Yukio Murata. Bringing humour and charisma to the character, Denden's Murata is a force of nature as wild as a tornado and as devastating as a tsunami. He also clearly loves playing such a villainous character, as there's an ever-present twinkle in his eye; even in the darkest of scenes. You'll feel quite like the Syamoto family by the end; fully in his thrall, amazed and entertained by his fantastic, layered performance.

Megumi Kagurazaka co-stars as Syamoto's wife Taeko and gives a towering performance of no vanity that is both memorable and beguiling. Taeko isn't exactly likable as written, but Kagurazaka imbues the character with such grace and strength that she'll almost certainly win you over. Rounding out the main cast is Asuka Kurosawa as Murata's wife Aiko, who is as unhinged, as manipulative and as charming as her husband. Kurosawa is probably best known for her dedicated performance as Rinko in Shinya Tsukamoto's 'A Snake of June,' but her work in 'Cold Fish' is arguably the stronger of the two performances- and certainly the more entertaining.


Sion Sono's 'Cold Fish' is a brilliant, darkly comedic film that contains gore and humor a-plenty. Featuring outstanding performances from the cast, excellent, stylish visuals and a great score from Tomohide Harada; the film is a technical and creative achievement on every level. The subject matter may put some viewers off, but for those who enjoy black-comedy and eat up any true-crime story, 'Cold Fish' is a highly recommended dish: a cinematic delicacy.

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