I saw this cold(was not aware of the director or her work) as part of Japan Cuts film fest in NYC, at which the director attended. I went primarily because of my love for cats and my respect for Japanese pop culture's handling of cats (Maru, Cat Cafes, Maneki Neko). It could have been horrible, but if there were some cute cats, I would have been satisfied. Fortunately, it was totally worth viewing. My boyfriend begrudgingly went with me, and he thoroughly enjoyed the film. The director got the idea for the story after an elderly friend's cat died, and she thought "wouldn't it be great if he could rent a new cat?". The script was written in four days. The tightly constructed episodic pattern to the narrative structure is pretty close to genius. It is one of those films that gets a pay off from the audience being in on the pattern and still manages to add some twists and side-steps clichés, particularly in the last few scenes of the film. The two negatives are that it starts to feel a bit long by the end, and the need to carry through the symbolism in each episode feels a bit contrived. But, these are small critiques. The protagonist, who is basically in every scene of the film, manages to be quirky without being annoying, and vulnerable without being pathetic. The cats are cute as heck, and the director, being an owner of three cats herself, allowed the cats to do their thing in the background, etc. Very funny dialog and comic timing makes a good transition into subtitles. The film itself is beautiful, with mellow golden mise-en-scene that lets the scene breathe. Everything, the costumes, the living room shrine,the pig-shaped incense burner, and the web of clothesline, is placed and shot for beautiful visual balance. Also the director she said she wanted the interiors to look very Japanese, Showa Era, and contrast with the heroine's modern take on life. The closing titles are the topper of a kawaii (cute) and funny film. It isn't a chick flick. It isn't JUST a crazy cat lady movie. It is a well-made film with a different point of view and a gentle message. And lots of cats.
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