September 11, 1998 at 04:00 AM EDT

The Eel

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
Unrated
runtime
117 minutes
performer
Koji Yakusho
distributor
New Yorker
genre
Foreign Language, Comedy, Drama
We gave it an A-

Koji Yakusho, who played the joyless office drone transformed by waltzing in Shall We Dance?, stars as another reborn salaryman in The Eel, Shohei Imamura’s subtle, artful, slithery drama (based on Akira Yoshimura’s novel Sparkles in the Darkness), which shared top prize at the 1997 Cannes film festival. Here the handsome Yakusho is a parolee — convicted of killing his unfaithful wife — who sets up a barbershop in a small riverside town, installs his pet eel as his only confidante, and cautiously connects with a new woman (Misa Shimizu), a kindred spirit whom he saves from suicide. In the creature’s mating habits and its wriggling life, Imamura creates a parallel to the upstream battle of these fragile outsiders, and he makes his points with abundant, tender humor. A-

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