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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.

See also...


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“The Ballad of Narayama is Imamura's masterpiece.” - Senses of Cinema No holds barred in its depiction of a harsh village existence 100 years ago, The Ballad of Narayama is a remake of the 1958 ... More »


He kills, laughing. That's the kind he is. Often touted as a Japanese In Cold Blood, Vengeance is Mine sees Shohei Imamura energetically depict a true-life murderer who kept evading a police dragnet ... More »

INTENTIONS OF MURDER (aka Unholy Desire)

“Arresting and provocative… An authentic shocker.” - New York Times Another film from Shohei Imamura often muttered in the same breath as ‘masterpiece', Intentions of Murder (aka Unholy ... More »


“Only the Japanese - perhaps only Imamura - could have made a film in which the bomb at Hiroshima is simply the starting point for an unforgiving critique of Japanese society itself.” - Chicago ... More »


Warm Water Under A Red Bridge is the story of a recently unemployed man in his forties, whose wife has just left him On the advice of an old tramp, he travels to a faraway village, to a certain ... More »

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