|Index||5 reviews in total|
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.
Some directors keep making the same movie over and over again. This seems to be the case with Ogigami Naoko. I happen to like the movies she makes, so when a new one is out, I try to see it. It started with one of my favorite dorama series Suika. When I noticed that most of the cast from Suika was present in Megane, I had to check that one out. It turned out to be a wonderfully relaxed and quirky movie with subtle humor. There was no big climax. Just life's little developments. The subtropical Ryukyu Islands seemed quite an exotic place for Japanese city slickers. Kamome Diner had much of the same feel to it. Finland seems quite an exotic place for Japanese. It's tough adjusting, but worth it if you don't give up. Rent a Neko has the same wonderfully relaxed feel to it. It was not an exotic place this time, but an eccentric person called Sayoko. She's a bit of a slacker trying to find her own way in society by renting out cats on her own terms. That way she helps people to find some solace in life. Ichikawa Mikako is utterly convincing in this role. It's great to see her play the lead for once. She doesn't do too much, but has some very funny faces that make me burst out in laughter. Best part for me was her dream with Japon Rent a neko. "Master Utamaru is not class C!" I really love the repetition in the story and then the slow development. In the end it was all about loneliness and adjustment, or lack of adjustment. Just as in Ms. Ogigami's other movies. I'm not mentioning Toilet.
At first sight Rent-a-Cat appears to be a whimsical, heartwarming
tribute to all the cats in the world and their overt sense of
superiority. Enticing the audiences with its aesthetically imaginative
tale, the film produces an aura that no person whether fond of
animals or not can resist. It's only natural to point out that - with
all its light-hearted ambiance and modest storyline - it aspires to
exhibit a much bigger, perfectly recognizable premise.
As funny as it may sound like, Rent-a-Cat is a kawaii-style affair that brings out all that's the strangest and, at the same time, the most fascinating about the Land of the Rising Sun. In spite of all the comical aspects of its plot, the picture is able to deliver an important and universal message, hiding it under the charming mask of attractive visuals and adorable characters. Through its rather simple tale about a cat-renting business, Rent-a-Cat evaluates the problem of loneliness in our contemporary world. The main character, a woman named Sayoko (Mikako Ichikawa), lives in a typical Japanese household witch a bunch of adorable four-legged creatures. Spending every day in their company, she finally comes up with an ingenious idea. Namely, she decides to open up a cat rental for all the lonely people in her neighborhood. Strolling across the nearby river, she continues to improve her reputation as the weird cat lady who offers her felines as the illusory means to happiness. Surprisingly, people start to gather around her umbrella- topped cart, in order to rent one of the cute cats and as Sayoko clearly puts it get rid of those painful holes in their hearts. However, as she gradually begins to understand, she is actually the one who leads a sorely lonely life.
Through the routine that controls her life she gradually begins to realize that building a close relationship with an ordinary cat is much simpler than doing so with a human being. She tries to follow this enormous dream of finding the love of her life without any promising results. During her every day walks she meets a lot of different characters: some of them cheerless, some creepy, other withdrawn and shallow. The only person who takes an interest in Sayoko is her old-time schoolmate (Kei Tanaka) and, given his preposterous attitude, he is not a suitable candidate for a romance. Once again, Sayoko has to come to terms with her hard situation and go on doing what she does best renting cats to lonely folks.
The main entertainment value of the picture comes from numerous laughable situations, like the dream where Sayoko has to choose a cat based on the class that it's attached to, or the many appearances of a mysterious and critical neighbor-in-drag (Katsuya Kobayashi). With its perfectly convincing storyline, subtle poetic style, charming and alluring atmosphere, great attention to details (the wondrous shots of Japanese houses and landscapes), and many adorable cats walking all over the screen Rent-a-Cat is a cheerful comedy that will definitely lighten up your day.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I went to see this movie without expecting anything. I was curious as I have always enjoyed Asian cinema for their quirkiness and outside-the- box plots. The evening was nice, I was in a good mood. And then the movie started. During the first 10 minutes I got the feeling it was supposed to be more or less funny as some people around me and my partner started laughing. "Look, it's that crazy cat lady, let's run!", said the boys and ran away. Again, laughter. A cute rent-a-neko song clip, which got annoying after three times. Still, not a reason to deny this movie a chance, I thought. So I continued watching it, waiting for something to happen. Half an hour later, I realized that was a mistake. The same plot line had happened again. And besides the overly simplified point "there are so many lonely people, a cat is much easier to build a relationship with than a person!", nothing actually happened. The acting was tedious and straight up lousy. So I tried concentrating on the scenery, the cinematography - again, nothing. The scenes were dull, there was no depth at all. And the repetition had gotten so tedious that I actually started grinding my teeth with irritation - will it ever end? A dream followed by the exact same dialogue and location, again a rent- a-cat client and finally a glimpse at a potential lover. However, it became clear quite quickly that the love story would not spark and the main character would only be good at renting cats. And then the final thought - maybe every hole in life cannot be filled with cats? So, it was horrible. And the most horrible thing about it was the fact that it wasn't quite as bad as to watch it as those straight-to-video titles, which are just straight up silly. 2/10 - terrible.
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.
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