TIFF Romania Review: I Catch a Terrible Cat (2013)

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Cast: Moto Fuyuki, Kaori Aoyama, Yûmi Gotô
Director: Rikiya Imaizumi
Country: Japan
Genre: Comedy | Drama
Official Trailer: Here


Editor’s Notes: The following review is part of our coverage for the 12th Annual Transilvania International Film Festival. For more information on I Catch a Terrible Cat visit http://tiff.ro/en and follow TIFF Romania on Twitter at @TIFFromania.

“Appearances or indiscretion.
Friendship or family.
Life or dreams.
Society or status.
Such things are powerless in the presence of the feeling of love.”

There could hardly be more appropriate words on which to begin I Catch a Terrible Cat, Japanese writer/director Rikiya Imaizumi’s richly funny investigation of the strange phenomenon of love through the story of aging novelist Norifumi Takada, from whose The Immaculate Cat the quote is taken. He, standing on the precipice of sixty, has not written a word since the death of his wife, the absence of his muse leaving him powerless to reap the rewards of an ample imagination. His loneliness forms the basis of a film that deftly interconnects his longings with the fraught, adultery-ridden relationships of his adult children.

“I don’t want to be someone who hurts others,” he says with a melancholy air at one point. “It’s easier being the one getting hurt.” Fuyuki is immense in his ability to channel this pervasive sense of sadness at the same time as he carries the film’s more amusing aspects…

i_catch_a_terrible_cat_2013_2Moto Fuyuki grounds the film with a terrifically humane portrait of Takada, capable of both turning his isolation to humorous effect and lending weight to its sombre dramatic gravitas. He is the nucleus of the film, his burgeoning relationship with a young barwoman its core as the various subplots and tangents about it unfold and intertwine. “I don’t want to be someone who hurts others,” he says with a melancholy air at one point. “It’s easier being the one getting hurt.” Fuyuki is immense in his ability to channel this pervasive sense of sadness at the same time as he carries the film’s more amusing aspects, which grow in number as the plot progresses and the various stories that constitute it come together for his climactic birthday party scene.

Those many strands that make up the film’s story serve both to enrich its encompassing character study and to detract from it, difficult as they can be to follow at times. Takada’s son and daughter both deal with infidelity in their relationships, he the culprit in his, she the cuckquean in hers. Their stories, those of their partners, that of a young writer in awe of Takada, and that of a trio of friends—one of whom is played by Imaizumi—with their own romantic complication, seemingly unconnected from the rest of the characters, tend to overstuff the plot to a head-scratching degree. It’s not until the excellently-penned final act that everything comes together in a comprehensive way, by which time many viewers may have become lost in the myriad characters and subplots.

It’s often not until the cut that we notice just how long a take has lasted, Imaizumi’s reserved directorial presence serving to hypnotise us within these conversations. It’s an effective technique, though not, perhaps, as effective as it might be with more experienced performers…

Imaizumi’s third feature, the film showcases his talents in eliciting engrossing performances; his shooting style teases nicely naturalistic work from his cast, the subtle presence of his camera in impressively extended takes allowing the audience to be lost in the words and faces of these actors. It’s often not until the cut that we notice just how long a take has lasted, Imaizumi’s reserved directorial presence serving to hypnotise us within these conversations. It’s an effective technique, though not, perhaps, as effective as it might be with more experienced performers; few of the primary cast—Fuyuki is a notable exception—have any prior credits at all, and what little is added in naturalism is countered by the loss of conviction.

For all the little drawbacks in its casting and structure, I Catch a Terrible Cat is an accomplished work from a director as technically proficient as he is formally inventive. His final act sees his film touch on greatness, sudden striking breaches of the fourth wall doing as much as anything else in the movie to build on this intriguing exploration of the selfishness and selflessness of love. That, as the hilariously unexpected and inspired final scene more powerfully attests, is the crucial underpinning of this wonderful film: we maintain so idyllic a view of love—a romanticised view, as it were—that we tend to forget the significant flaws of humanity it veils. It’s easy, then, to love I Catch a Terrible Cat; to reap the rewards of our relationship to it as spectators, and to turn a blind eye to the bigger problems at work within.

[notification type=”star”]73/100 ~ GOOD. For all the little drawbacks in its casting and structure, I Catch a Terrible Cat is an accomplished work from a director as technically proficient as he is formally inventive.[/notification]

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About Author

Ronan Doyle is an Irish freelance film critic, whose work has appeared on Indiewire, FilmLinc, Film Ireland, FRED Film Radio, and otherwhere. He recently contributed a chapter on Arab cinema to the book Celluloid Ceiling, and is currently entangled in an all-encompassing volume on the work of Woody Allen. When not watching movies, reading about movies, writing about movies, or thinking about movies, he can be found talking about movies on Twitter. He is fuelled by tea and has heard of sleep, but finds the idea frightfully silly.