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Sion Sono’s ‘Cold Fish’ nets Japan premiere at Tokyo Filmex

'Cold Fish'
‘Cold Fish’

TOKYO (TR) – Getting its Japan premiere at Tokyo Filmex on Saturday was art-house helmer Sion Sono’s latest pic, the gore fest “Tsumetai Nettaigyo” (Cold Fish), which he said goes in a completely different direction from his last pic, “Love Exposure.”

His inspiration for making the film came from two areas.

“There are many crime cases in Japan that have interested me,” said Sono following the screening at the Yurakucho Asahi Hall in Tokyo’s Chuo Ward. “I also wanted to depict a sense of total hopelessness, which I feel is lacking in Japanese films.”

The grotesque, sometimes humorous, often farcical pic, which is based on an actual killing spree committed by a dog kennel owner in the 1980s, tells the story of a family of three that becomes entangled in a string of ongoing murders perpetrated by a tropical fish salesman in Shizuoka Prefecture.

Sono said that the humorous aspects were due to comedy being inherent in tragedy. “I wasn’t intending to make people laugh,” he said. “But when you read crime files there are extreme situations whereby the interviews with people can be very funny. So I tried to be true to fact when I wrote the script. That’s how the laughter came into it.”

The lead, fish shop owner Nobuyuki Shamato, is played by thesp Fukikoshi Mitsuru, who makes his third appearance in a Sono film, the last being in “Love Exposure,” the four-hour black comedy about a man and his camera that won the Tokyo Filmex Audience Award in 2008. Shamoto’s wife is Taeko (pin-up model Megumi Kagarazaka).

The film also stars Denden in the role of Yukio Murata, a rival shop owner who cons, drugs, and slices up numerous people. For his character, Sono liberally uses Christian references, which he said are necessary to provide a vague background. “When you go into the backbone of a criminal I thought hints needed to be provided to show where he comes from,” he said. “That was important to make him believable.”

“Cold Fish” was produced under the gore “Sushi Typhoon” imprint from studio Nikkatsu. The label earlier this year released the slash-up “Alien vs. Ninja,” helmed by Yuji Shimomura.

“People say that fact is stranger than fiction,” Sono said. “But I was not necessarily interested in fact. I wanted this ‘action film,’ as I call it, to be more about entertainment.”

“Cold Fish” opens in Japan on January 29.