Year of the Fish: irresistible

I don’t like fairy tales; they tend to be told in broad strokes, and I like details & complexity. But Year of the Fish, a film by David Kaplan now showing in Manhattan, completely won me over. It’s a Cinderella story set in Chinatown and done in Rotoscope animation, where the movie is shot with actors and then traced frame by frame.

The layer of animation is crucial, because otherwise you’d be looking at the reality and alert to any break in plausibility. But the animation (and the narration by the fish) allows the story not only to indulge in supernatural elements but to make use of many details of the here and now.

What really makes it work for me are the faces of the people—they all look like people I know or I’ve seen. I see that some reviewers feel there’s too much of a conflict between gritty modern detail and fairy tale sentimentality. As far as I’m concerned, that’s what’s great about it. And, in the end, it shows a moving generosity to all its main characters, even the rotten ones.

Plus, it’s persistently beautiful.


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