Year of the Fish


Year of the Fish is the kind of really bad movie it takes a lot of misplaced conviction to make. A modern-day fairy tale unwisely told from the perspective of an omniscient, magical fish, David Kaplan’s first feature follows Ye Xian (An Nguyen), fresh off the boat and conscripted into an illicit Chinatown massage parlor to earn for her ill father back on the mainland. Xian’s life is swiftly ruined by harridan mistress Mrs. Su (Tsai Chin), who lectures her on getting rid of all that “Chinese dignity” and replacing it with some “American greed.” Refusing to give handjobs, Xian suffers through outrageous shrieking on Su’s part, sexual harassment from her brother, and general shit from all the other girls. Fortunately, mythical witch/fortune teller/sweatshop owner Auntie Yaga (Randall Duk Kim) comes to the Cinderella rescue. The dialogue is routinely shrill (when Xian says her mother taught her how to cook, one of the girls spits back: “She should’ve taught you how to suck cock instead”), and the storytelling heavy-handedly mythic (underscored by uneven, mostly pointless rotoscoping). But what’s really troubling is how everyone who’s not traditional Chinese here is evil—from the Latino gangbangers who almost rape Xian on the street to the never-seen evil American girlfriend of Xian’s love interest whose only passion is Marc Jacobs.