The Eel うなぎ (Unagi) [1997] • Japan

I like films with a relaxed pace but this one is slow to the point of boring and its poetic undertones are silly. The story is trite: jealous man kills his wife, goes to prison, opens a barber shop in a small village when he gets out, saves a woman from suicide, she falls in love with him, people gossip, his affection remains towards his pet eel, her baggage causes him to defend her, he goes back to jail. We've seen it all before. Nothing wrong with that, per se. There are a handful of cinematically attractive moments but not enough to make the film worthwhile.

Misa Shimizu is fetching in her high-wasted slacks but never shines. Kôji Yakusho isn't given enough script or the proper direction to make his signature introspective style come alive. All of the acting seems very stilted, about the level of Tomorowo Taguchi.

And there's something very excuse-making and just plain wrong with a film that ends several times for about a half hour. Geez.

Director: Shohei Imamura
Starring: Kôji Yakusho, Misa Shimizu, Mitsuko Baisho, Akira Emoto, Fujio Tsuneta, Tomorowo Taguchi


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