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William Cameron Menzies
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 During her every day walks she meets a lot of different characters: some of them cheerless, some creepy, other withdrawn and shallow.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.
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