Cast:

Koji Yakusho: Tatsuro Yamashita
Misa Shimizu: Keiko Hattori
Mitsuko Baisho: Misako Nakajima
Etsuko Ichihara: Fumie Hattori
Tomoro Taguchi: Eiji Dojima
Akira Emoto: Tamotsu Takasaki
The Asahi Evening News, dated May 19, 1997 reports:

The director said, ... that his film got "quite good feedback from Western viewers when it was
shown at the festival. "My film got a lot of laughs, even in portions in which I never expected to
get laughs.

Imamura's film deals with suicide.  It is the story of a man paroled from prison after killing his
wife and whose closest companion is his pet eel. His life changes when he saves a young woman
from trying to commit suicide.
Renewed on May 15, 2010
Updated on May 23, 2011
On May 30, 2006, Director Imamura Shohei (79) passed away at 3:49pm of a metastatic liver tumor in a hospital in Tokyo.
Death of a Master Moviemaker May 31, 2006

Imamura Shohei, one of Japan's greatest movie directors, died of multiple organ failure at a Tokyo hospital yesterday
afternoon. He was 79. He won the Palme d'Or grand prize at the Cannes International Film Festival twice, with
"Narayama Bushikou" (Ballad of the Narayama) in 1983 and "Unagi" (The Eel) in 1997.

Actor Yakusho Koji (50), who starred in Unagi, said "It was truly an honor to have a chance to work with Imamura-kantoku
(director). He taught me so much. I wanted to see him make many more movies. He was a treasure of the Japanese movie
industry." Yakusho recently visited Imamura in hospital before leaving for this year's Cannes festival, where the movie
"Babel" in which he supports Brad Pitt, won the Director's Prize.

Imamura began as an assistant director under the master Ozu Yasujiro at the Shochiku studio and made his first movie
in 1958. But he was not really a studio player and moved toward a less stylized manner than that of classical Japanese
cinema and was not afraid to tackle taboo subjects. The common theme in his movies was the nature of Man and the
recurring question of what it means to be a working class Japanese. At the time that his first Palme d'Or was being
announced in Cannes, he was playing mahjong in Tokyo. He also left the festival early in 1997, sure that Unagi had no
chance of winning the top award. A heavy smoker who enjoyed shochu, he had a gourmet's palette, despite suffering
from diabetes from his late 20s. He was diagnosed with colon cancer last summer, and though he underwent surgery,
the cancer had spread to other organs. He was hospitalized several times and spent most of his last week in a
semi-conscious state.
Koji Yakusho at Shohei Imamura's funeral
Koji Yakusho contributed an essay entitled "A Respect For the Cinema" for the 2011 the Cannes
International Film Festival .

A RESPECT FOR THE CINEMA BY KOJI YAKUSHO

I believe that the audiences who come to see films at the Festival de Cannes have a true passion for film, and
it is in Cannes that I first understood how many people love the cinema. I had the clear impression that the
entire Festival held the director Shohei Imamura in high esteem. In Japan, I had not sensed this feeling of
respect for actors and directors.

As I was extremely stressed, I hardly remember going up the red carpet. Of course, I remember a few fleeting
impressions, but unfortunately, as Shohei Imamura had difficulty walking, we were unable to go up together.
I remember being very impressed seeing him with his cane in the company of the President Gilles Jacob, as I
glanced at the entrance of the Palais des Festivals while I climbed the stairs. I was moved that a film shot in
such a small city as Sawara, in Japan, could be received in such a lively place as an international film festival.
And when I heard the soundtrack to The Eel, I felt even greater joy. My heart began to beat very fast.

For the awards ceremony, Mr Imamura was obliged to return to Japan and I got up on stage in the company
of director Abbas Kiarostami, Palme do'r  ex-aequo: I have the photo that was taken of the two of us on
display at my home. I was in a state of complete panic on the day of the awards ceremony. I had thought I
would visit Paris and spend a night there before returning home, when the producer called me in. And when I
ascended the red carpet, Gilles Jacob whispered to me:  don't think you will be disappointed?  And yet, I still
did not expect the Palme do'r. The award was presented by Catherine Deneuve.

was moved that a film produced in Japan, this little island in the Far East, would be seen by so many
European spectators and I could feel the profound respect that their applause showed for the film in my
whole body. I thought its director was a real star.
I had not made many films until then, but it was this Festival de Cannes that helped me decide I wanted to
devote myself to it full time.
            
       
 Unagi (1997)