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The Eel(うなぎ)

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Japan · 1997
1h 57m
Director Shōhei Imamura
Starring Koji Yakusho, Misa Shimizu, Akira Emoto, Fujio Tokita
Genre Drama

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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CNN by

The performances (especially the lead one by Shall We Dance's Koji Yakusho) are all quite good, but I was once again stuck watching a movie that's solely about repressed passion, perhaps the least cinematic thing you could ever try to film.


Variety by David Stratton

While the symbolism of the eel itself is a bit obvious, Imamura has created a rich tapestry of characters and situations, all of it vividly brought to life with pristine visuals and a generous emotional warmth.


San Francisco Examiner by G. Allen Johnson

In a way, The Eel is very much like Black Rain, and nearly as great. Both deal with an emotionally shattering aftermath, and both question mankind's ability to overcome its many weaknesses.


Village Voice by J. Hoberman

This simple, sinuous fable may not be among Imamura’s greatest films–it lacks the crazy libidinal energy of The Pornographers or Eijanaika–but it could hardly have been made by anyone else.


Boston Globe by Jay Carr

The Eel careens all over the stylistic map, from irony to slapstick. But it's chaos in the service of rebirth and redemption, a rich screenful of zigzagging. [16 Oct 1998, p.C5]


Chicago Reader by Jonathan Rosenbaum

The film brims over with various eccentrics (the barber's ufologist neighbor and a former prison mate who harasses the hero and delivers drunken tirades), and Imamura views them all with mixed amusement and curiosity; he also does striking things with dream sequences and visual and aural flashbacks.


Austin Chronicle by Marc Savlov

It's no wonder Imamura has now collected not one but two Palmes d'Ors; The Eel is a flash of quiet brilliance that resonates long after the images have faded from the screen.

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