An untrue declaration: canard, cock-and-bull story, falsehood, falsity, fib, fiction, inveracity, lie2, misrepresentation, misstatement, prevarication, story, tale, untruth. Informal tall tale. Slang whopper. See true/false.
Once in a while, you come across a film that challenges you in many ways. It’s story may be unconventional, it’s style somewhat different from the best of the rest. It borrows heavily on a lot of different genres, ranging from the romantic, the dramatic, the thrilling to even horror in some parts. In general, the film surprises in terms of the direction it takes. ‘Fish Story’ is such a film.
For example, there is a part a part when the characters were trying on different tapes. Three young bucks in a car were driving along, checking out several different music tapes (the time was the 80s, so do forgive them for not having CD players just yet). They come across a tape with a muted middle part, right after the lengthy guitar solo. Legend has it that it was muted because there was a girl’s scream, a sound that only those with psychic abilities would be able to hear. Unfortunately, those who could hear it would be cursed for life. So, being the daring Japanese youngsters that they are, they then put the tape in. And then they strain their ears, going through the song. The guitar riffs of the opening verse, the bridge, and here comes the guitar solo…and suddenly…
…well, I’m not about to spoil it for you now, am I? 🙂 But needless to say, the tension felt in the air was palpable. I held my breath for a bit, I must admit, and it just about reaches the heights of some of the moments you can find in ‘The Hurt Locker’.
‘Fish Story’ is the name of a song recorded by a Japanese punk rock band in the early 1970s. Throughout the film, there were several references as to how the band made the song before Sex Pistols became a big, mainstream hit. This is important, because the band never did become very successful, and so ‘Fish Story’ was their last song they recorded. After they recorded this, the band split up and went their separate ways.
Fast forward into the nearer future (relative to the 70s, of course), and we’re hanging and chillin’ with the aforementioned three guys in the car. The young buck (Gaku Hamada) driving the car is something of a weakling, someone with little to call a backbone, being at the behest of his friends’s every beck and call (in fact, he is so meek I actually thought that he was hired by them to drive the car). They meet a girl along the way, a cute one, who claim that she could see into the future. This she did, and she picked out the young, weak one: “I met a man today who will save the world.”
A little nudge on the time-o-meter of the DeLorean, and we’re somewhere closer towards our own contemporary time. A schoolgirl (Mikako Tabe) falls asleep on a ferry during a school trip. She misses her stop because of that, and feels rather depressed. That is, until a young and charming waiter (Mirai Moriyama) notices her, and starts to talk with her. “Do you want to know something interesting?” With time on her hand, she decides to humour him. “Since I was young, I have been training to become a champion of justice.” Of course, that is the moment the boat is taken over by a group of terrorists.
Intrigued? Don’t hold your breath, because we’re right back to where we actually start within the film. The year is 2012, and a meteorite is heading towards Earth. It is doomsday as we know it not in the film ‘2012’, but everyone have decided to leave the cities and run for the hills, believing that it will provide adequate cover for the oncoming tsunamis that will inevitably occur (a reminder that tsunami, having been so global since 2005, is actually a Japanese word). A man wanders the neighbourhood in his motorised wheelchair, and comes across two young people inside a shop. Curious as to why they’re not running away to hide, he goes in, and finds that they’ve decided to live out their final hours listening to songs. The shop owner (Nao Omori) is not quite so pessimistic, however; he pulls out an old vinyl record called ‘Fish Story’, puts it on, and tells of the tale of how the song will save the day.
Interesting, don’t you think? Here’s the catch: they’re all related to one another, somehow, and it’s not all in that order. Do keep your eyes peeled and your ears unblocked, because this film does take you on a rather wild ride (along with some rather catchy music). Even Kabir Bhatia might tap out in submission the way Batista did at Wrestlemania, because the links are so tenuous, and yet it all makes sense…ultimately. Ultimately. The emphasis is mine, and the repetition is mine, because this is a movie that you have to have faith in. That’s the funny thing about films; we are promised something, to be entertained, to get our money’s worth. Half the time, however, that promise is not kept to, and for a variety of reasons. In ‘Fish Story’, everything becomes like a loop that is made up of other, smaller loops. These loops are the stories, each filled with their own respective narratives and purposes. It becomes almost a clash of the titans in terms of style and purpose, but they all do serve the bigger picture.
You can’t help but to get lost within this particular maze of loops, stories, and songs. Even though not all of the characters get the same amount of screen time, for the most part, they are properly established, and you do end up rooting for them. Notice how I didn’t really write out the character’s names, though. They’re established, but not that much. There’s enough for us to chomp the bit at, with a bit of stereotyping thrown in for good measure. In some parts, we’re not really given the time to really get to know them, but you do end up rooting for them. It’s a part of our nature, isn’t it, to back those who face the insurmountable? Some call it a British thing, to root for the underdog, but I do believe that others may well feel that little spark when we come across it in life. In this case, that little spark is…well, sparked, when I see the young man who is constantly bullied by his friends. “He’s just the driver. Pretend he’s not here” said his friend rather dismissively, when the pretty girl who claims that she is a psychic enquires about him. I did feel somewhat angered by his friend’s remarks, although that may well have been because I myself was bullied back in high school. I ended up saying rather loudly, to the screen, to the character: “Come on, mate, stand up for yourself! Go after her! Go!” As you can see, I did get rather involved.
Even if you don’t quite have the same experiences as me, it doesn’t mean that it is a film that is exclusive in nature. It pokes fun at a lot of things, and brings in many of the pop culture elements that you may recognise if you weren’t a frog beneath a coconut shell. Take for example the two main characters at the beginning, professing hope that perhaps the meteorite will blow up before reaching Earth. It’s difficult to be positive in the face of such insurmountable odds, as the old man, so pessimistically made clear: “Even if you survive the tsunami, you’ll be living in the ice age. This is it, this is the end.” The youngster and the younger-ster holds on to their belief nonetheless. “But the Americans put nuclear bombs on the metorite.” “Ah,” the man replied, “Operation Armageddon?” “Yes,” said the young one, “maybe Bruce Willis is still on the comet.” 🙂
As a whole, ‘Fish Story’ is a nice little film that may, at times, be slightly difficult to follow. I admitted that at times I fought to make sure that I am able to keep up, not so much with the pace (I didn’t really feel the two and a half hours that went past) nor did it falter because it’s all too complicated for my little brain. No, far from it, my friends; this film challenges us in a very nice way. The main question that keeps popping into my head was: “Where is this all leading me?” I didn’t know. I didn’t know, and couldn’t quite make much sense of all the separate parts all the way near the very end. The payoff by then was extremely satisfying. The script is nice (where else will you find lines like “Don’t assume that I’m dead…music stacked up like blocks is the only salvation”?), the editing is not wasted, the sound is carefully designed and mixed. All the elements came together nicely, with some rather nice comedy (I thought the idea of a waiter who knows kung-fu is quite amusing) thrown into the bargain as well. Thrill, romance, music, drama, and a bit of kung-fu.
Having said that, Fikri thinks that Kabir Bhatia is a good director.