Rent-a-Cat / Rentaneko (レンタネコ) | Review

I am sure that not many of us look forward to flying these days (me included), the endless security, fluid confiscation shenanigans, shoes off, laptops out, strip-searches etc. can become all too tiresome especially when it feels like you spend less time in the air than at the airport.

In recent times, and especially on long haul flights, one of my favorite pastimes has become trying to seek out movies that I would not normally get a chance to watch or foreign language movies that have not (and may never) get a US release.

Fellow movie lovers, there are some hidden treasures buried in the back of the seat in front of you (and I am not just talking about what has fallen out of the pocket of the supersized passenger).  On a recent flight from Tokyo, I was lucky enough to catch just such a gem. “Rentaneko” or “Rent-a-cat” (written and directed by USC film school alumni Naoko Ogigami) is a beautiful movie about a young lady called Sayoko who rents out cats to help lonely people fill the emptiness in their hearts. She walks along the banks of the river with a megaphone promoting her service and her animals in a handcart.   This stars Mikako Ichikawa as Sayoko with support from Reiko Kusamura, Ken Mitsuishi, Maho Yamada and Kei Tanaka.

Japanese cinema can often be about extremes, yet in this gentle sweet dramedy, we are delighted, moved and often tickled in the same scene.  Much of this is down to some careful direction and elegant cinematography, and many of the scenes are so beautifully composed that they could be frozen to create photographs.

All of this beauty is augmented by a touching and genuine performance from Ichikawa.  Her human portrayal of a single thirty-something coming to terms with the death of her grandmother (whom she considered to be ‘her rock’) is poignant.  Added to this is her biggest goal in life – to get married.  On the surface there is an air of light heartedness and comedy throughout the movie and yet, when this is scratched, belies a depth that touches your heart and warms you to your central core.  The story meanders a little towards the end, but at those times, the kitty-cat action is more than enough to keep you glued to your screen.

This is a quirky engaging movie that will amuse and enchant everyone – and if you are a cat lover, this movie is a special treat.  Of course being the crazy cat lady that I am, the scenes or outtakes with all of the well-trained moggies were like icing on this near perfect cake.

Rentaneko has been shown at a number of international film festivals through 2012 including Sundance and Edinburgh.  Unfortunately it seems that your best chance of catching it right now is to fly ANA between Los Angeles and Tokyo.  My only hope is that enough people hear about this movie and it get the chance of at least a limited US release.

Official Home Page (Japanese only) – http://rentaneko.com

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