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Japan, 1997 (MIFF 1998, Regional Features)

Director: Shohei Imamura

The Eel (winner of the Palme d'Or at Cannes 1997) balances comic tragedy and drama in its telling of the rehabilitation of Takuro, released from jail after stabbing his wife eight years previous. In the outside world he remains largely uncommunicative, except with an eel he found while in prison. Takuro sets up a barber shop in a small village and begins the slow process of rediscovering his more human senses. One day he saves a woman, Keiko, from a failed suicide attempt, and the two begin a friendship. Unfortunately, a chance encounter with a former cell-mate threatens to expose Takuro's past to those who have begun to trust him.

In Japan eels are considered to be a vitality restoring delicacy. The symbolism is not lost in Shohei Imamura's adaptation of Akira Yoshimura's short story Glistening in the Dark. Overshadowing Takuro's return to society is a lingering sense that all he wants to do is slip into the mud and live the isolated life of an eel.

"Basically it is the story of an uncommunicative, reserved man and a desperate woman, fed up with men, who tumbles into his life... It is in my trying to understand the unique workings of this man's thoughts that I have made The Eel." - Shohei Imamura

"Yakusho gives a dignified performance as a man who killed in a mad moment of jealousy. Even better is Shimizu as the warmhearted Keiko, who has plenty of scars of her own... 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." - David Stratton, Variety

Shohei Imamura was born in Tokyo, 1926. After graduating in 1952 with a major in History, Shohei began working for Sochiku Film Company as an assistant director. A veteran of Japanese cinema, Shohei directed his first film, Stolen Desire, in 1958. Since then The Ballad of Narayama won him the Palme d'Or at Cannes in 1983, and Black Rain received the Supreme Technical Prize at Cannes in 1989.

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