Title: Fish Story
Director: Yoshihiro MakamuraReleased: 2009
Starring: Atsushi Ito, Kengo Kora, Mikako Tabe, Gaku Hamada, Mirai Moriyama, Nao Omoroi, Kiyohiko Shibukawa, Toshimitsu Okawa, Hidekazu Mashima, Noriko Eguchi, Takashi Yamanaka, Kazuki Namioka, Mai Takahashi, Kenjiro Ishimaru
Plot: Gerkirin a rock band from 1975 who having had no success, record one last song “Fish Story” before the band splits up, which years later could be the key to saving the world from its impending destruction from a meteor on a collision course.
Review: There are certain films which frequently remind me of the diffrences between the films being produced for the Asian film market and those being produced by Hollywood and this would especially being one of those films. A quick look at the plot summery alone is enough to confirm it, for can you see any major studio getting behind a film were the Earth is saved from a giant meteor by a song? No as “Armageddon” proved they would more likely get behind the film were they can spend millions of dollars giving Michael Bay another reason to make things go boom in some spectacular fashion or another.
What we get here though is something not only free of those usual cliché’s but altogether more special, as director Makamura not only pokes fun at the Michael Bay approach with mention of a failed attempt to stop the meteor by the Americans to detonate nuclear bombs on the Meteor called “Operation Armageddon”, while he also breaks the film into what could almost be seen as four short and seemingly unconnected films, as the film crosses multiple time frames from 1975 to 2012. Starting with timid driver (Hamada) being told a prophecy about him meeting a girl who will save the world, as he scouts for girls with his friends. Next the film gets a martial arts twist as a ferry cook (Moriyama) channels his inner Steven Segal to give us what is almost “Under Siege” on a budget as he saves schoolgirl (Tabe) from a group of gun toting hijackers. Finally we have the story of how Gerkirin, a band trying to kickstart a punk revolution a year before the Sex Pistols, while also explaining how they came up with the song “Fish Story”. Inbetween these seemingly unconnected shorts the film cuts back to the present were three strangers meet in a record shop discussing the song, while with five hours to impact the rest of Japan has fled to Mount Fuji in an attempt to escape the impending tsunami scenario, with the last hope resting with an attempt being launched by of all counties India….who’d have thought they’d have a space program, but then I thought the same for Australia until I saw “Iron Sky”.
While it frequently feels like these segments are unconnected, especially with the song being the only connection for one of these segments, you are left to trust in Makamura, who thankfully delivers a satisfying conclusion that confirms that no matter how random these segments might seem, they do in fact all link together and more often than not in the most surprising of ways aswell as thankfully none of the smugness that M. Night Shyamalan tends to bring with his twists. With Makamura it is more a case of presenting the maths and revealing the links that were always there and more often than not staring us right in our face, its just we didn’t know it.
The real strength though of this film though is how simply it tells, what could easily have been turned into a complex and confusing mess, while equally staring true to its main theme of fear which runs throughout, be it the fear of the end of the world via the ever approaching meteor, the fear of never achieving a dream or just the fear of being killed by a bunch of machine gun toting terrorists. It is also a surprising theme for a film filled with so many naturally comedic moments, let alone frequent genre shifts the likes of which I haven’t seen since “Save The Green Planet” with science fiction, kung fu and supernatural thriller to name but a few included within the films framework with a colourful and largely likeable mix of characters helps make it a fun if incredibly strange ride.
The main problem here though, is not so much the frequent genre changes or leaps in time, but more so the unbalanced nature of the segments with Moriyama’s kung fu antics easily stealing the show, thanks to his real-life background training as a ballet dancer, making his despatch of the bad guys only all the more graceful to watch. Elsewhere the final segment about the song being recorded is greatly helped by the raw enthusiasm of the band, which unlike so many movie bands actually have the feel of a proper band, rather than a group of actors thrown together, while the song which is supposedly going to save the world is thankfully catchy enough, so that you don’t mind hearing it on what feels like a continuous loop during this segment.
While it might seem out there (and it is) this is a simple enough film to follow if you focus on one segment at a time, rather than worrying about the larger picture and how it all links together, as like I stated at the start of this review, this truly is the sort of movie that you would never see coming from Hollywood and perhaps it is this uniqueness which makes it so much fun, while certainly helped by some strong writing and intriguing plotting, which ensures that you genuinely don’t know which way the story will go next, making it one of the more original let alone downright strange movies that I have seen as of late.