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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)
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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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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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5.0 out of 5 stars IGNORE PET8'S REVIEW March 12 2002
By A Customer
Format:DVD
According to Pet8, "The Eel" is a "male-dominant movie" because:
1. The guy gets only 8 years for murdering his wife. (Maybe that's the way it is in Japan. What's unrealistic about that???)
2. He was "mean" because he was "unsociable" and "mean" for rejecting the lunches that a woman made for him.
Then Pet8 says, "All he had to do was dish out some kindness once in a while, and the girl was hooked. Men's fantansy if you ask me."
What Pet8 FAILS to mention is that the reason the man murdered his wife is because she was cheating on him. Plus, the reason he is "unsociable" and "mean" to the woman who makes lunches for him is because SHE LOOKS LIKE HIS LATE WIFE WHO CHEATED ON HIM.
I'm pretty sure if your spouse was cheating on you, you would behave in a "unsociable" and "mean or unpleasant" way to a woman who looked like your wife. And that goes for if the gender roles were reversed. I'm sure a woman would behave the same way to a nice guy if he looked like her unfaithful husband.
Pet8, if you're going to write a review--AT LEAST TELL THE WHOLE STORY. Not just what you want to manipulate the readers to think.
Aside from all that, "The Eel" is an excellent movie on betrayal, redemption and forgiveness. In many ways it reminded me of "Crime and Punishment." I highly recommend it. Incidentally, "The Eel" co-won the Best Picture award at the Cannes Film Festival. I'm pretty sure the Grand Jury didn't find "The Eel" to be a sexist film that Pet8 would want you to think.
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