What do you get when a massive comet is heading to earth and only a perplexing punk rock song from the 70s can save it? You get Fish Story (Fishu Sutori), an extremely clever, funny and heartwarming film from Japan.
It’s amazing how reading can inspire you to actually do something like, in this case, watching a random Japanese movie. I tend to read Ain’t it Cool News a lot and really enjoy reading the writers’ favorite films of the year, particularly Massawyrm since it is almost impossible to find a pattern in what types of films he likes. Like him, I enjoy quite an array of movies and tend to find myself agreeing with many of his film reviews, but it was in his post “Massawyrm’s Top 10 of 2009!” when I realized I should totally give Fish Story a look-see. He listed it as his number two movie of 2009 and after almost a year later I finally got around to watching it and the result was much more than I could have ever hoped for. I thought it was fucking fantastic!
The film, which is based off of Kotaro Isaka’s novel, starts off in the year 2012 with a massive comet heading to earth threatening mankind’s existence. The film begins at a record store where the clerk mentions to one of his customers that the song Fish Story, from a punk rock band that existed one year before the Sex Pistols made it big, would save the world. From there we are taken back and forth in time to find out how this one song from a punk rock band could potentially save the world from total destruction. The interconnecting years are 1975, 1982, 1999, 2009, and then always back to 2012 for updates on the comet. Each flashback and forward essentially tells its own story and is somehow randomly connected to the song, whether you realize it or not.
What makes this film so special is that it manages to take a complex story, possibly confuse you depending on your attention span, and by the time you reach the credits you’re ready to watch it again because of how fulfilling the finale is. Fish Story takes you on a journey through the use of a poetic song, continuously mixing depression and drama with inspiration and joy that results in an uplifting story where the principles of hope and justice can save one’s soul and possibly even humanity itself. We learn all of this through the stories of punk rockers, a martial arts expert, a cowardly young adult, a record store owner and a few other fascinating characters. The actors that make up these roles do a superb job portraying their character, embodying their spirit and demeanor so well that despite the fact that some of the cast may be overacting believe me when I say that it works for this film.
Director Yoshihiro Nakamura (golden Slumber has done a masterful job of weaving five different stories together to help give you both clarity and closure in addition to one rollercoaster of a ride throughout the well paced 112 minute duration. Yoshihiro manages to differentiate his film from other interconnected story films like Crash and Amores Perros by making this film is a whole lot of fun mixed in with a ton of wit and style, kind of like the personality of a careless punk rocker.
With an excellent script, some superb acting from a free spirited and quirky cast, and fantastic direction, Fish Story manages to be the movie that so many directors aspire to make, a fun yet complex story full of every thematic element you can imagine. It literally is one of the most complete films you’ll ever see. So if you’re looking for a great movie to watch that offers a radically different story than most of the Hollywood-born crap that we see today, I highly recommend you check out the fun film that is Fish Story.
Rating: A smart, lively and witty movie with the personality of a punk rocker (9/10)