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Underwater Love

(Onna no kappa)

Canadian Premiere

Underwater Love Underwater Love Underwater Love

Official Selection, Tribeca Film Festival 2011
Official Selection, Udine Far East Film Festival 2011

Screening Times

“a constant flow of WTF moments that make you impatient to tell friends about the strange kettle of fish you’ve just witnessed... a delightful and unclassifiable pleasurebox” — Sukhdev Sandhu, THE TELEGRAPH

“Deliriously loopy” — Andrew Schenker, SLANT


Director: Shinji Imaoka
Screenplay: Tom Mes, Fumio Moriya
Cast: Sawa Masaki,Yoshiro Umezawa, Mutsuo Yoshioka, Emi Nishimura, Ai Narita
Producers: Stephan Holl, Daisuke Asakura
Print Source: Films Boutique

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Camera Lucida   

Camera Lucida



Iconic creatures of Japanese folklore, kappas inhabit rivers and swamps, where they play sneaky tricks and challenge people to sumo matches. Half humans, half turtles, they feed primarily on fish but have a special hankering for cucumbers and must keep their scalps wet at all times. Kappas have a lesser-known trait as well — some of them have pretty powerful libidos. Asuka, a cheerful thirty-something employed at a fish processing plant, finds that out fast enough. Coming face to face with one such creature, she has little doubt that it will turn her life upside down. The aquatic imp is in fact an amphibious reincarnation of her old classmate Aoki, who had drowned. The kappa works its way into her life, something she sees as a threat to her eventual marriage to her boss, a man incapable of distinguishing romance from sex. The kappa has its reasons, of course — Aoki truly loves Asuka and has come to conquer her heart and save her life.

An inspired hybrid of musical comedy, classical fairy tale and pinku eiga (Japanese softcore sex film), UNDERWATER LOVE may well be the most oddball entry in Fantasia’s schedule this year (and that’s saying something!). With his latest film, Shinji Imaoka, highly regarded artisan of contemporary pinku cinema, isn’t out to shock gratuitously. He does flirt furtively with salacious humour, offering a handful of sexual gags that, it’s worth noting, are genuinely funny. The erotic scenes inherent in the pinku genre — while some are supremely surrealist, what with the kappa and all — make UNDERWATER LOVE a decidedly adult fantasy, but its underlying message of true love makes it a joyful and deeply affectionate work. And the score by Stereo Total! The Franco-German duo bring a French electro-pop touch to the musical sequences, evoking Serge Gainsbourg resurrected in the age of samplers, accompanied by a Japanese singer injected with the genes of a young Brigitte Bardot. UNDERWATER LOVE also benefits from a big name behind the camera as cinematographer Christopher Doyle, celebrated worldwide for his work on Wong Kar-Wai’s films, brings out a striking and majestic beauty that capitalizes on the scenic Japanese countryside. And, no true oddity from the Land of the Rising Sun is complete without the skills of Fantasia’s favourite Japanese weirdo, Yoshihiro Nishimura. His special effects bring life to the phantasmagoric figures of this sexy feelgood musical, one that will paste a smile on your face and soothe your soul.

—Nicolas Archambault (translated by Rupert Bottenberg)

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