‘Eel’ appeal: No electricity

TOKYO — Despite winning the Palme d’Or at Cannes, the Japanese movie “The Eel” (Unagi) has not been winning over the domestic audience.

Since its release in 126 theaters, the box office for “The Eel” has hit $3.2 million as of Thursday. The film from helmer Shohei Imamura will run through Sept. 6 in Japan.

Shochiku started distributing the film about a week after it won top honors at Cannes along with Iranian comedy “The Taste of Cherries.”

Word of mouth and free publicity could not have been better for “The Eel.” All the national newspapers published the movie’s Palme d’Or decision as a top news story, and most television networks followed suit by giving the award prominent air time on their nightly news broadcasts.

Many in the Japanese film industry said the reason for the disappointing box office is that audiences have yet to be won back to the theater to see low-budget Japanese arthouse films.

Despite the poor attendance figures, “The Eel” could help put an end to the slide in the Japanese film industry. The critical success of the movie has given a shot of confidence to studios and directors. In addition, the international commercial success of the recently released movie “Shall We Dance?” has shown that Japanese films may return as viable products on the international market.

Shochiku currently is negotiating with distributors to take “The Eel” overseas.

Pic tells the story of a reformed murderer and a suicidal woman who find an end to their solace through a love they share.

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