Friday, February 11, 2011
YEAR OF THE FISH, after wining awards at various film festivals, opened at New York's Angelika Film Center at the end of August 2008 to a set of simply lovely reviews. Almost nobody (including your truly) came to see it, however, and the film was yanked a week later without being given ample time to build its audience. Fortunately, its distributor Gigantic Pictures also streamed the movie, which, back then, in the early days of streaming, probably got it to the attention of at least a few more viewers that did its very limited theatrical release. Now, two-and-one-half years later, the "Fish" is finally making its DVD debut. It proves more than worth the wait.
David Kaplan (shown at left) is an original. It does not compare to anything TrustMovies can readily call to mind. Jumping off from one of history's most famous fairy tales -- but setting it in a New York Chinatown massage parlor (so it's not for kids or the sexually uptight) -- it is filmed in the Rotoscope animation process, used by movies as varied as Waking Life, A Scanner Darkly, Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Fire and Ice, among many others. From even this short list, it's clear that the animation style can vary wildly from one film to another, and Year of the Fish indeed falls into a "look" that is very much its own. Often realistic (at times it seems just a step away from live action), it is also highly impressionistic, using a brilliantly colorful palette and scene changes made by heavy artist brush strokes that literally "paint" over the screen.
Goodnight Moon in its graceful nod to (and understanding of) all the characters -- even those we thought we hated.
Today's Special, which had its admirers, though I was not among them. I'm glad I did not realize that the same director made both movies, or I might have neglected to see his earlier work -- a film which, if I'd caught upon its theatrical release, I would have ranked with the best that 2008 had to offer. One word of warning: The unusual animation process may initially put you off, as it did my companion -- who stopped watching within five minutes. I would suggest you give it a further shot, for once the movie takes hold, it will not easily let you go. Available now for sale or rental, The Year of the Fish may very well be a classic.