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Eel (Widescreen)

Kôji Yakusho , Misa Shimizu , Shôhei Imamura    Unrated   DVD
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
Price: CDN$ 130.92
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Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars ... Sept. 30 2003
Format:DVD
The Eel is a very enjoyable, often humorous and contemplatively paced (read:slow... but not unbearably so) movie. Apparently Imamura had misgivings about its presentation at (and subsequent winning of the palme d'or) Cannes, amongst the bigger budget fare (which the comments indicate he prefered to his own film... "They should recount the ballots."), but, the comments don't necessarily indicate he thinks it's a particularly bad movie, and it's perfectly normal that artists be dissatisfied with or dislike their own work.
While Imamura's comments aren't entirely baseless, (especially if you're competing with something like The Sweet Hereafter) The Eel still has merits. The acting is well done, the characters are interesting if not particularly sympathetic, and, for the most part, uniquely identifiable (never unbearably 'quirky')... The cinematography is a bit murky (although it may be the transfer) but for the most part the shots are well staged. The soundtrack is effective, but not worthy of special attention. Although, like other reviewers, I found the supposed "themes" especially vague other than what is openly stated in the movie, the vagaries don't really affect the movie, other than some confusion created by the title (really... just because a film seemingly has the pretense of meaning or fails to elucidate it, doesn't set in stone its meaninglessness or meaningfulness nor make it "good" or "bad").
(On another note, although there is some sex in the film, I didn't find it to be an especially "erotic" movie... the packaging seems to be another one of those instances where zealous marketing wizards and mistaken reviewers (both of whom probably walked out after first twenty minutes) collide.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Decent Film version of a chilling book June 29 2003
Format:DVD
It's probably germane to note that "The Eel" is a film adaptation of a novel called On Parole, written by Akira Yoshimura. It's a pretty free adaptation; for instance, there's no eel in the book. The film loses some of the richness of the book, and it develops very slowly, and its central metaphors are tentative and underdone, but it's still a very interesting movie with some comic moments and some very touching scenes as well. I thought the cinematography was spectacular, really capturing the sadness and heat of semi-rural Japan.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Sensational Dec 6 2002
By A Customer
Format:DVD
A very moving film full of quiet depth and both powerful and provocative emotions. In a word, this film is sensational.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Clumsy, amateurish, pretentious Nov. 17 2002
Format:DVD
Shohei Imamura has been responsible for some of the better films out of Japan -- "Black Rain," "Vengeance Is Mine," and "The Pornographers" all come to mind. How, then, to explain "The Eel," a movie so silly and dumbfoundingly amateurish that it contains mistakes no first-time filmmaker would make?
The plot: After spending eight years in prison for murdering his philandering wife, a man returns to society and opens a barbershop with only his pet eel as company. He stumbles across a woman who has apparently attempted to commit suicide, and in gratitude she offers her services at his shop. He doesn't want anything to do with her, but eventually it becomes him vs. her half-psychotic former boyfriend (in a subplot involving her loony mother and some stolen money that's as stupid as it is unedifying).
The main problem with "The Eel" is not the premise, which is fine, but the way the movie is set up and played off. The writing and directing (and in many cases the acting) are staggeringly bad, so much so that I felt flat-out pity for Imamura. I suspect he had an idea that he simply was not capable of doing justice to properly, and compromised somewhere along the way.
So what kinds of mistakes are made? Example: Takuro is shown goose-stepping in prison as part of the routine. When he's released, he follows his parole officer a little too closely, and with a walk that's reminiscent of the goose-step without actually being that way. The parole officer asks him what's wrong. So far, so good. But then Imamura destroys the moment by forcing a shot of other prisoners goose-stepping, and even goes so far as to give us a voice-over explaining what was going on. It's as if he doesn't trust himself or his audience to figure anything out.
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