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Film / The Golden Fish

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The Golden Fish (Histoire d'un poisson rouge, "Story of a Goldfish") is a 1959 short film (19 minutes) from France, directed by Edmond Sechan.

A young Japanese boy lives with his mother somewhere in France, apparently a drab industrial area where his mother works in a factory. Although there are no scenes of overt bullying the boy doesn't seem to socialize much with his white schoolmates, instead going to and returning from school alone.

One day the boy is sent out to get milk. He walks through an amusement park and gets distracted by a roulette-style game in which the prize is a fish from a bowl. The boy wins a goldfish (the only goldfish in a bowl full of black-colored fish) and takes it home. The fish gets a home in a little goldfish bowl by the window. One day the boy goes off to school and leaves the window open, which is bad, because the local alley cat shows up.

Edmond Sechan was a cinematographer on French short film The Red Balloon, which told a similar story in a similar dialogue-free manner. He later directed another Oscar-winning short, One-Eyed Men Are Kings. The Golden Fish was produced by none other than Jacques Cousteau, better known as the maker of a whole host of oceanography documentaries.


  • An Aesop: Racism is bad. Don't judge a bird, or in this case a cat, by its color.
  • Amusement Park: Where the kid gets distracted by the fish.
  • Bookends: The same shot of the cat in the window both begins and ends the film.
  • Cats Are Mean: Averted. The fish leaps out of its bowl and lands on the counter just as the cat is entering through the window. The cat then picks the fish up in its mouth, but instead of eating it, puts it back in the bowl, saving the fish's life.
  • Disappeared Dad: Where's the dad? Who knows?
  • Fish out of Water:
    • The choice of an Asian actor to play the little boy is obviously deliberate, making a point about minorities in 1950s France.
    • It is also notable that the goldfish that catches the boy's eye is the only goldfish in the tank; all the other fish in the tank are black.
    • And then of course there's a literal Fish Out Of Water, forming the climax to the film.
  • Foreshadowing: The opening credits play over a shot of a cat in a window, foreshadowing the climax to the movie.
  • Nameless Narrative: No characters in the short get any names. Often happens in silent films.
  • Predator Turned Protector: A cat enters an apartment, sees a fish out of its bowl flopping around, picks the fish up, and plops it back in the tank.
  • Shout-Out: The shot of the workers leaving Mom's factory is a carbon copy of one of the first motion pictures ever made, a shot of workers leaving a factory by the Lumiere brothers.
  • Silence Is Golden: No dialogue in the short, other than one unintelligible and irrelevant line barked by the carnival worker.
  • Sudden Soundtrack Stop: The chipper, whimsical music on the soundtrack instantly goes silent when the goldfish leaps out of its bowl and is left gasping on the table.