TADFF 2012: ‘Dead Sushi’ a delirious journey of mind-buggery and uninhibited madness

Dead Sushi

Directed by Noboru Iguchi

Written by Noboru Iguchi and Jun Tsugita

Japan, 2012

Jiro Dreams of Sushi, a sincere documentary about a humble 85-year old sushi maker, was an “effective, ultimately heartfelt, and handled deftly” film about the skill, spirit, and dedication needed to fully grasp the rarely mastered culinary art. Now, imagine if Jiro was having a menacing nightmare, a salacious wet dream, and was euphorically high off his head on smack at the same time, you’d have Noboru Iguchi’s otherwise impossible to explain Dead Sushi.

The story follows Keiko (Rina Takeda), the daughter and apprentice of a master martial artist and sushi maker (Jiji Bû). Despite her father’s attempt to mold her into a master of both trades, her femininity prevents her from becoming either (apparently). Distraught, Keiko runs away from home and takes up a job at an inn owned by a married couple (Takashi Nishina and Asami Sugiura), where she befriends the caretaker (Shigeru Matsuzaki). One night, a group of business people working in the pharmaceutical industry drop in, looking for accommodation and good sushi. One thing leads to another and an ex-pharmaceutical employee injects a re-animating serum into the food, causing feral sushi and other raw fish related shenanigans.

From the very start, Dead Sushi is a movie that promises to devolve into a delirious journey of mind-buggery and uninhibited madness. We’re promised sushi action, sushi erotica, and sushi violence (sushi humour is implied); that’s what the audience orders and that’s exactly what the audience gets. The special effects are cheesy, the acting is hammy, and the story is beyond stupid, but nonetheless, the movie is still impossible to not enjoy. The non-sequiturs are intrepidly brazen, every single line of dialogue is infinitely quotable, and the tone couldn’t be further down one’s cheek if the tongue itself was a killer sushi.

To best put the film into words, we’re going to have to use a food analogy. If Dead Sushi were itself an actual piece of sushi, it would be in the form of a jalapeño stuffed with wasabi, wrapped in kimchi, dipped in Red Bull, and covered in the most piquant, foul smelling cheese. In fact, on the menu, it should be labeled as the ‘Gangnam Style Roll’. There’s no sense of logic to this creation, no expectations of significance, pretense of structure, or any of the skill, spirit, and dedication needed to fully grasp the rarely mastered culinary art. Instead, Dead Sushi is just a volatile palate explosion of incredibly bad taste that somehow ends up being ridiculously delicious.

– Justin Li

The 7th annual Toronto After Dark Film Festival runs from October 18-26. For a complete schedule and ticket information, please visit the offical website.

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