Unagi   1997   Japan The Eel
The Eel Image Cover
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Director:Shohei Imamura
Studio:Eisei Gekijo
Writer:Shohei Imamura, Daisuke Tengan, Motofumi Tomikawa, Akira Yoshimura
IMDb Rating:7.4 (2,901 votes)
Awards:14 wins & 13 nominations
Duration:117 min
Location:Japan: Sawara, Fukuoka; Hachiōji, Tokyo
Shohei Imamura  ...  (Director)
Shohei Imamura, Daisuke Tengan, Motofumi Tomikawa, Akira Yoshimura  ...  (Writer)
Kôji Yakusho  ...  Takuro Yamashita
Misa Shimizu  ...  Keiko Hattori
Mitsuko Baisho  ...  Misako Nakajima
Akira Emoto  ...  Tamotsu Takasaki
Fujio Tsuneta  ...  Jiro Nakajima
Shô Aikawa  ...  Yuji Nozawa
Ken Kobayashi  ...  Masaki Saito
Sabu Kawahara  ...  Seitaro Misato
Etsuko Ichihara  ...  Fumie Hattori
Tomorowo Taguchi  ...  Eiji Dojima
Chiho Terada  ...  Emiko Yamashita
Shigeru Komatsubara  ...  Cinematographer
Mitsuko Baishô  ...  Misako Nakajima
Fujio Tokita  ...  Jiro Nakajima
Shinshô Nakamaru  ...  
Sei Hiraizumi  ...  
Seiji Kurasaki  ...  
Toshirô Ishidô  ...  
Shinichirô Ikebe  ...  Composer
Comments: 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.


Summary: White-collar worker Yamashita finds out that his wife has a lover visiting her when he's away, suddenly returns home and kills her. After eight years in prison, he returns to live in a small village, opens a barber shop (he was trained as a barber in prison) and talks almost to no-one except for the eel he "befriended" in prison. One day he finds the unconscious body of Keiko, who attempted suicide and reminds him of his wife. She starts to work at his shop, but he doesn't let her become close to him.

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