is not much of a business, but at least the inventory is cheap. In fact, Sayoko attracts stray cats like a
magnet. Profits really are not the point
anyway. She is out to fill the holes in
people’s hearts, perhaps even including her own in Naoko Ogigami’s Rent-a-Cat (trailer here), which screens as
part of the 2012 edition of Japan Cuts: the New York Festival of Japanese Cinema.
a sleepy corner of Tokyo, Sayoko lives in the picturesque Minka-esque house she
once shared with her beloved late grandmother, along with a dozen or so
cats. The woman has become a crazy cat
lady at a young age, but there is a method to her madness. Most days, she pulls her cart through the neighborhood,
hawking cats for rent. Of course, she
will not rent to just anyone. A home
inspection is required.
episodic, we watch Sayoko repeat the cat rental ritual with several customers,
each with a hole to fill in their lives.
For an elderly widow reluctant to buy a new cat knowing her time is
short, Sayoko’s service is a godsend.
However, some clients take a bit of convincing, like the desperately
unfulfilled car rental agency manager.
Yet, the most intriguing potential client-story arc involves Yoshizawa, the
former delinquent middle school classmate Sayoko initially wants nothing to do
Rent-a-Cat is a quiet
film, chocked full of feline adorableness.
It wears its sentimental heart on its sleeve, deriving gentle laughs from
its characters quirks (to use a loaded word).
However, it is more bittersweet than compulsively cute, particularly
during Sayoko’s smartly ambiguous encounter with Yoshizawa.
Sayoko, Mikako Ichikawa blends goofy awkwardness and sincere sensitivity quite touchingly. Indeed, it is a very humane performance, displaying
real on-screen chemistry with her animal co-stars and Kei Tanaka’s Yoshizawa.
There might not be a lot of surprises in the
unhurried Rent-a-Cat, but Ogigami
infuses the proceedings with a wistful atmosphere that is quite beguiling. Essentially, it is an animal lovers’ indie that
well reflects traditional Japanese aesthetics of elegant simplicity. An effective mood piece featuring several
nice turns from its small human ensemble, Rent-a-Cat
is recommended surprisingly highly for those who suspect they might
appreciate its discreet charms. It
screens this coming Wednesday (7/25) at the Japan Society, as this year’s Japan
Labels: Cat movies, Japan Cuts '12, Japanese Cinema