The Eel (Unagi) (1998) - Rotten Tomatoes

The Eel (Unagi) (1998)



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Movie Info

Japan's maverick master Shohei Imamura delivers a gentle, droll and haunting film about an ex-con making his awkward way to redemption.
Art House & International , Drama
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
Atalanta Filmes


Koji Yakusho
as Takuro Yamashita
Misa Shimizu
as Keiko Hattori
Fujio Tokita
as Jiro Nakajima
Mitsuko Baisho
as Misako Nakaima
Akira Emoto
as Tamotsu Takasaki
Fujio Tsuneta
as Jiro Nakajima
Sho Aikawa
as Yuji Nozawa
Sabu Kawara
as Seitaro Misato
Ken Kobayashi
as Masaki Saito
Sabu Kawahara
as Seitaro Misato
Etsuko Ichihara
as Fumie Hattori
Tomorowo Taguchi
as Eiji Dojima
Sanshô Shinsui
as Citizen's Hospital Doctor
Shoichi Ozawa
as Maternity Hospital Doctor
Makoto Satô
as Jukichi Takada
Show More Cast

Critic Reviews for The Eel (Unagi)

All Critics (26) | Top Critics (7)

Unpredictable and captivating.

Full Review… | February 14, 2001
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic

I was once again stuck watching a movie that's solely about repressed passion, perhaps the least cinematic thing you could ever try to film.

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Top Critic

Yakusho and Ms. Shimizu deliver unerring performances in a splendid film that harvests hope from a bleak landscape.

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
New York Times
Top Critic

This simple, sinuous fable may not be among Imamura's greatest films ... but it could hardly have been made by anyone else.

January 1, 2000
Village Voice
Top Critic

It sounds nuts, but one of the best movies in town is about the relationship of a man with his eel.

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic

Imamura composed The Eel with an artist's eye and takes his time, so don't expect a fast-paced American-style film.

Full Review… | July 2, 2004
Courier-Journal (Louisville, KY)

Audience Reviews for The Eel (Unagi)


Where is your wife buried? In 1988 a simple business man seems to live a normal Japanese life. He spends his days at work, his nights fishing, and he has a lovely wife at home. One day he receives a mysterious letter that tells him his wife is cheating on him. He investigates the matter and when he discovers it's true he murders his wife. He is released from jail with enough money to open his own barber shop with his pet eel that he talks to religiously. Can the simple man ever have a normal life again? "Nobody knows your father but you're still a fantastic eel." Shohei Imamura, director of Intentions of Murder, The Insect Woman, The Pornographers, Vengeance is Mine, Pigs and Battleships, and Warm Water under a Red Bridge, delivers The Eel. The storyline for this picture contains great character development that seems fairly average until the end when everything comes together perfectly. I loved the pace of the film and the acting was exquisite. The cast includes Koshi Yakusho, Misa Shimizu, and Mitsuko Baisho. "What an odd guy." "You might say that." We discovered Shohei Imamura at the American Film Institute (AFI) when they did a tribute to his work. We loved his films and now try to see as many of his pictures as possible. This is a tough movie to find but I grabbed a relatively cheap copy off eBay. This movie seems like another ho-hum drama until the end when everything really comes together (like most Japanese pictures). This was another character drama from Shohei Imamura that is definitely worth your time. "What made you do it?" "I fell in love with the wrong person." Grade: A

Kevin Robbins
Kevin Robbins

In the most perverse circumstances, a story of affection and redemption in The Eel. Reflective. Optimistic. Oddly charming.

Jan Marc Macababayao
Jan Marc Macababayao

Super Reviewer


Rage, remorse, regeneration, redemption, romance and a lot of frankly baffling whimsy. I felt this movie was just all over the map and did not satisfy. "An erotic spellbinder." ??????, um... no.

Bob Stinson
Bob Stinson

Super Reviewer

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