[For the month of July, Japanator's sister site Flixist will be covering the Japan Cuts film festival, which is running in New York City from the 12th until the 28th. For your convenience, we will be posting review roundups here, but you can find all of Flixist's coverage here, and their coverage of the New York Asian Film Festival here.]
It's all over. For the past month, we have lived and breathed Asian films, and now it's done. First it was NYAFF, and we mourned its loss, but we still had Japan Cuts to keep ourselves occupied. And now that's done too. After our big awards and roundup post on Wednesday, we will be officially done with our coverage of this year's festivals. In some ways, I'm definitely glad. I can go and watch movies just to watch them. I haven't had a chance to do that in a while, so that will be nice. But there were more movies at these festivals that I wanted to see. We watched and more than half of the nearly 80 films that played between the festivals, but there were still some cool looking things we never got a chance to see. Moreover, at least a few of these films are unlikely to ever get a proper US release, so we may have missed our only shot.
Hopefully the two movies we've got to tell you about today do get a release, though, because they're both pretty cool. Especially Rent-a-Cat. Rent-a-Cat is amazing.
Rent-a-Cat (Rentaneko | レンタネコ)
Synopsis: Sayoko rents out cats. Every day she walks along the banks of the river towing her animals in a little handcart, with a parasol to shade her against the heat and a megaphone over her mouth, calling out "Cats for rent! Are you lonely? Why not rent a cat?" Sayoko's cat rental helps lonely people fill the emptiness in their hearts. But Sayoko is also lonely--ever since her grandmother's death she has lived with her cats in an overgrown haven in the midst of the big city where all she hears--apart from the cats' meowing--are her eccentric neighbor's insults. One day, a young man turns up from Sayoko's past. He follows her home and all at once Sayoko's life seems to fall apart.
Thoughts: Rent-a-Cat is like every Youtube video you've ever seen, except it has a story, albeit a pretty sparse one. What is there is basically in service of the cuteness of kittens and the wittiness of the dialogue. Everything else is really kind of unimportant. Basically, your enjoyment of the film will come down to how much you're affected by fuzzy things being cute. If you have a soul, you'll leave the film singing. If you don't have a soul, I'm sorry to hear that, but I think you should see it anyway. Maybe it'll be the singing Whos in Whoville to your tiny Grinch heart.
Verdict: See it. [Read the full review]
Ushijima the Loan Shark (Yamikin Ushijima-kun | 闇金ウシジマくん)
Synopsis: Based on the 4 million-seller comic series by Shohei Manabe, Ushijima the Loan Shark is a controversial work that shows the harsh reality of social disparity and working poor in contemporary Japan. Jun has expanded his club, Bamps, through broad personal connections. Next, in order to hold the biggest show ever, he visits Cow Cow Finance for an illegal loan--but feeling that Ushijima the loan shark didn't take him seriously, he decides to welsh on the loan. Then, Jun starts to use his girlfriends to make money by selling live tickets. One day, Ushijima is arrested on a charge of blackmail, in a plot laid by Jun.
Thoughts: Although I think it could have done with a little more of its title character. Ushijima the Loan Shark is still a good film. It couldn't be more different than Rent-a-Cat, with a storyline centering around murder, torture, rape, prostitution, extortion, and things of that sort, but after the initial shock wore off, I was still able to get into it. Most of the characters are not great people, which makes them kind of difficult to sympathize with, but even so, their plights tended to be interesting enough to keep my attention. When Ushijima himself is onscreen, everything becomes so much more compelling, because he is a complete badass, but even when it's without him the film is still pretty good. I want to see more of Ushijima as a character though. Fortunately, there's a manga and a TV show. Hopefully they're good too, because the character definitely deserves quality.
Verdict: See it. [Read the full review]
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