Cinefamily’s Shion Sono retrospective last weekend—where I got to see Love Exposure for a second time in all its glory—kicked off with an exclusive advance screening of Sono’s latest release, Cold Fish. Sometimes there are movies that say “based on a true story” and you can’t help but wonder by what stretch of the imagination that could possibly be true. Well, Shion Sono has quite the imagination, and as he mentioned in the Q&A at Cinefamily last weekend, the ideas and characters from Cold Fish were modeled after actual court transcripts from the case of an actual deranged murderer in Japan.
The movie begins with the introduction to a small family: mild-mannered fish-store owner Shamoto and his wife and daughter. Shamoto’s wife is portrayed from the start as a woman who, unhappy with her lukewarm marriage, is basically putting in the minimum required effort to be a good wife. Shamoto’s daughter, who can’t stand her stepmother, is likewise an incredibly disrespectful and delinquent young woman. But after getting caught attempting to shoplift in a nearby store, Shamoto’s daughter is “rescued” by gregarious and charismatic Murata (played by popular Japanese actor Denden) who then invites her to come work in his large, popular fish-store across town.
Murata quickly exerts his influence on all of Shamoto’s family. The daughter’s employment involves living with other shop employee’s in what more or less constitutes a sort of halfway house situation. When they drop their daughter off to live there, Murata sends Shamoto home on his own giving himself an opportunity for a pretty intense exchange with Shamoto’s wife before driving her home.
Finally Murata sets to work on Shamoto himself, insinuating him into a shady business deal that makes Shamoto very uncomfortable. But the shady business deal is just the beginning of a much more macabre plan on Murata’s behalf, which involves the process of making people “invisible.” Once you learn how to make people invisible, Murata insists, you become invincible.
From that point forward, the story only gets increasingly bizarre, gory, and disturbing. One of the beautiful things about Sono’s work, though, is that the movie remains just as hilarious as it is disturbing, often causing you to squirm and recoil in between fits of laughter. Cold Fish is supposed to hit theaters on July 6th, so if it’s playing anywhere near you I highly recommend you check it out.