Review: ‘Josee, The Tiger and the Fish’

Two twentysomethings -- one suffering from cerebral palsy -- develop a touching relationship in quirky love story "Josee, the Tiger and the Fish." Angling fests will find a good catch, with troika of provocative subject matter, assured direction and compassionate perfs earning pic selected arthouse berths and ancillary action.

Two twentysomethings — one suffering from cerebral palsy — develop a touching relationship in quirky love story “Josee, the Tiger and the Fish.” Angling fests will find a good catch, with troika of provocative subject matter, assured direction and compassionate perfs earning pic selected arthouse berths and ancillary action.

While working at a mah-jong parlor, university student Tsuneo (Satoshi Tsumabuki) has a bizarre meeting with the reclusive Kumiko (Chizuru Ikewaki), who calls herself Josee (from a Francoise Sagan character), a feisty invalid without use of her legs whose grandmother wheels her around town in a baby carriage for exercise. After a most unusual courtship the two become lovers. Expanding on themes of his charming short feature “Two People Talking” and gentle comedy of manners “Across a Gold Prairie,” indie helmer Isshin Inudo continues to eschew maudlin melodrama in favor of finely drawn characters who balance defiant eccentricity with fundamental decency (“Cut off your legs and see what it’s like,” proud Josee tells Tsuneo’s former flame). Tech credits are pro across the board; title refers to a caged cat and phantasmagorical sea creature Josee’s taken with during lovers’ jaunts.

Josee, The Tiger and the Fish

Japan

Production

An Asmik Ace Entertainment/IMJ Corp. production. (International sales: Asmik Ace Entertainment, Tokyo.) Produced by Osamu Kubota, Shinji Ogawa. Directed by Isshin Inudo. Screenplay, Aya Watanabe, from the short story by Seiko Tanabe.

Crew

Camera (color), Takahiro Tsutai; editor, Souichi Veno; music, Quruli. Reviewed at Montreal Film Festival (Cinema of Asia), Sept. 2, 2003. (Also in Chicago Film Festival.) Running time: 116 MIN.

With

Satoshi Tsumabuki, Chizuru Ikewaki, Juri Veno, Hirohumi Arai, Tokuko Eguchi.
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