Naoko Ogigami used to be one of my favorite directors. Her films had a unique mix of quirkiness combined with reminiscent slow-motion, as a blend of humor emerging from deliberately simplistic mimics recalling Kaurismäki. Yet as in her last English-language feature 'Toilet', 'Rentacat' fails to recreate the atmosphere of her earlier masterpieces 'Glasses', 'Kamome Diner' and 'Barber Yoshino' because it's lacking two key ingredients of their recipe: the actresses Satomi Kobayashi and Masako Motai, who inter-played brilliantly in her earlier films. Masako Motai appears to be Ogigami's 'muse': in 'Toilet', her brief, non-verbal scenes were about the only enjoyable aspect of an otherwise unconvincing family dramedy. Here, she's missing altogether for the first time, and Mikako Ichikawa's character never arrives at making any similar impression of genuine eccentricity. Instead, she plays the lonely girl Sayoko, whose scent attracts an ever-increasing number of cats, but repels people, in a straight-faced fashion, ignoring the ironic possibilities of such a character. As a result, 'Rentacat' comes across as an unconvincing character study, with a few comedy elements such as a cross-dressing, mean-spirited neighbor and a repetition of the story's cycle, which to this viewer is rather annoying than entertaining. Let's hope Ogigami revives her collaboration with Motai and Kobayashi in her next feature, as she apparently cannot do without them.
2 of 12 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?