It’s a pity that as a movie junkie, especially for us who lived in Indonesia, we had to went an extra mile to enjoy a non-Hollywood film. And even at that, unless you’re really looking for it, such films are rarely exposed which makes it a little bit harder to pick the cream of the crops. I picked up “Fish Story” out of pure coincidence, and knowing nothing about it. This due to a few months ago, at Sundance Film Festival, a movie from Japan, “A Boy and His Samurai” had a brief exposure. On impulse, I searched for any previous movies from its director, Yoshihiro Nakamura. “Fish Story” came on top, and boy, it is one of the best movie that I’ve seen in a long while and I meant to write about it.
Typically, Japanese films are slow and employs lots of lots of subtleties that watching it requires a decent amount of concentration that sadly, most of us who put “movies” on his/her hobby description, were severely lacked. “Fish Story” is of no exception. It opens up to a scene of empty streets, litters everywhere, and a bored looking middle-aged man riding scooter down the streets. No dialogs, not even a monologue, and no explanations whatsoever are given out. Not until a few minutes later, after a dialog that doesn’t make any sense at first, with an introduction to a couple more characters had the scene becomes somewhat, more or less, clear(er). Now, even at that, the movie hasn’t made itself crystal clear on its purpose. This is a barrier for this movie. If one could get passed it without giving in to boredom, he/she will be well rewarded. Otherwise, well, I should think that Hollywood is good enough for you. Can’t blame you for that. Some people just had it, but most are don’t. It’s a life.
Comet apocalypse, a punk rock band born and died only shortly before Sex Pistols made their grand entrance, a timid college boy trying to find his courage, and a champion of justice on a hijacked yacht with a schoolgirl who had missed her stop. Those were what “Fish Story” is all about. It spans on several decades and not until the end credits had all the scenes were properly connected. But frankly, it shouldn’t be hard to follow given you had aforementioned decent amount of concentration during your watching experience.
It is my personal preference, but the last time I was so in awe of story telling in a movie is probably during “The Social Network.” Or before that, “Inglourious Basterds.” “Fish Story” gives me almost the exact same feeling of awe. When the movie switches timeline from its opening scene timeline, I was immediately hooked and I was gone, immersing in it for the whole duration. It was that good.
My favorite part would be the band part. These guys were given a proper treatment that even within a few scenes, the weigh of each character and their respective relationship to one another is palpable on screen. Some of the best emotional scenes from this movie were circled around these guys. And best of all, most of it didn’t even have spoken words. Just a meaningful look, a slight change on the face, a smile, a knowing determination, or a gesture that speaks. Subtle, as most of great Japanese films that I happened to ever see are and well rewarded its viewer with more than a little help from their own imagination. My very definition of an engaging movie, my very definition of a great movie.
This movie actually centers around the band. It’s like a pebble that crashed into the water surface and sends out ripple to every direction. “Fish Story” is actually the title of one of the band’s song. Its tune was catchy, and even if I speak a very little Japanese, to this day, I found myself humming the song time and again.
Unfortunately, beyond a movie junkie with an insatiable hunger for a great movie, this movie won’t get a notice it so deservingly had to had and soon will be forgotten (well, it was never remembered in the first place anyway). One thing clear though, I’m going to introduce this film to my offsprings someday and it will have a distinction to be one of the best film I’ve seen in the year 2011.