Exclusive: Writer/Director Sion Sono Talks Cold Fish

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If you’re a fan of writer/director Sion Sono’s work, you know one thing is for sure: He always seems to push the boundaries of storytelling when crafting his cinematic vision. From 2001’s Suicide Club, which featured a gaggle of Japanese schoolgirls jumping in front of a moving train, leaving onlookers dripping in blood, to 2007’s Exte, a movie about killer hair extensions that was as gruesome as hell.

In his latest film, Cold Fish (review here), Sono manages to continue to challenge audiences and push the boundaries of sex and violence while exploring the human condition.

For those of you who may not have had the opportunity to experience Cold Fish for yourselves just yet, the film is centered around struggling family man Shamoto, who gets mixed up in the world of a Japanese crime boss named Murata, which has devastating consequences for Shamoto and the family he’s desperately trying to do right by.
Recently Dread Central had an opportunity to talk with Sono about his latest directorial endeavor, if he ever had any concerns about boundaries when making Cold Fish and what project the masterful storyteller is working on for his next feature film.

Since Cold Fish was a project loosely based on a real serial killer in Japan, we asked Sono to discuss what it was about this story in particular that spoke to him when creating the script and just how much the feature film’s story parallels what really happened. “The producer of Cold Fish introduced me to the events that the movie was based on. At first I didn’t think it sounded that interesting to me, but as I wrote the script and the true story evolved into the story in the movie, I saw its potential.”

“The main character of Shamoto was entirely fictional, though; he’s one I made up on my own because in these kinds of tragic true events, someone is always the bad guy, and you rarely hear about the good guys. So what I wanted to do was take this person (Shamoto) who essentially is a good person and surround him with these bad people and see what would happen from there,” added Sono.

With Sono being one of the leading visionary directors working in Japan these days (in addition to being a world-renowned poet), we asked him to talk about his use of imagery throughout Cold Fish where the filmmaker would often balance out the gritty and destructive events unfolding around Shamoto with stunning shots of aquatic life and religious imagery.

“I liked the idea of shooting and using the tropical fish in the film because when you look at them, they are such beautiful creatures, but they also have a dangerous side to them as well,” explained Sono. “For example, if you were to stick your finger in the tank, they will attack you. They definitely relate to the character of Murata. He has this appearance of being a very nice, easy-going kind of man who’s easy to get close to because he seems so inviting, but he’s actually a very evil and dangerous man. So if you get too close to him, Murata will most likely do something very bad to you.”

“The religious imagery that was used in Cold Fish was a reflection of the kind of person Murata was. He had this trauma when he was young in the cabin where he now kills, but he’s still very much attached the power of this trauma any time he goes back to that house. The crosses, for example, were associated with Murata’s father, and the reason they were still hanging everywhere in the house was because it was like his father was still there, watching what kind of man Murata was becoming,” added Sono.

Undoubtedly, Cold Fish is one of the more brutal and explicit films of 2011. The film features plenty of grisly murders, sexual taboos being explored, several dismemberment scenes, one of the more messed up rape scenes this writer has seen in the last five years and a suicide to boot. Sono discussed whether or not he even thinks about boundaries when creating a story. “Thinking about social boundaries and those kinds of limitations when telling a story would have resulted in a far more boring film, I think. The perspective of the events of Cold Fish come from Shamoto’s point of view so that’s really the only limit I put on the level of sexual violence in the film. I just made sure that everything you saw that was shocking was coming from what Shamoto was experiencing himself so I didn’t show anything additional in the scenes where characters were chopping up bodies- what the audience sees is what Shamoto sees. Everything that may be shocking in nature in the movie is integral to the story I wanted to tell.”

“I know that I am not a mainstream kind of director at all. I don’t make romantic movies or family movies so I think if mainstream audiences came to see my films, they would be shocked. I know that there is a specific kind of audience that comes to see my movies so I never try to make something for the mainstream; I make it for the audiences that are looking for something a little different than a regular movie. Anyone who knows my work as a director knows what’s in store for them when they come to see my films,” added Sono.

Now that Cold Fish is enjoying a limited theatrical release in selected AMC Theaters courtesy of the fine people at Bloody Disgusting Selects, Sono talked about what he’s looking forward to directing next.

“I’ve been talking with several US producers to make my next movie here in America so that’s the next thing I’m looking forward to,” said Sono. “It’ll be in English and have American actors, and I’m not planning on changing my filmmaking style at all either so I’ll be staying true to the kind of stories I like to tell as a director. The movies I’d like to make here are the ones that explore some of the more American-type taboos and see how far I can push the boundaries here in cinema.”

You can catch Cold Fish in theatres at the following locations:

NY: August 5 thru 12. Check local listings for show times.
-reRun Gastropub Theater, 147 Front Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201

LA: August 6 and 7. Check local listings for show times.
-Cinefamily, 611 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles, 90036. (323)655-2510

Austin: August 15 thru 18. Check local listings for show times.
-Alamo Drafthouse, 1120 S. Lamar Blvd., Austin TX 78704. (512)476-1320

Phoenix: August 19 thru 20. Check local listings for show times.
-The Royale, 108 W. Main St., Mesa, AZ 85201

Salem, MA: August 26 thru Sept. 1. Check local listings for show times.
-Cinema Salem, 1 East India Square, Salem MA 01970 (978)744-0660

After that look for it on DVD and iTunes August 23rd. VOD fans can catch it as it begins to spread from September 23rd through November 22nd.

Exclusive: Writer/Director Sion Sono Talks Cold Fish

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