Cats can help lonely people to fill the emptiness in their hearts. The protagonist from Rent a Cat, Sayoko strolls along the Tama River with felines in the umbrella-topped handcart and with loudspeaker promoting her service of renting animals for lonely people. Later it turns out that Sayoko feels lonely herself since her grandmother’s death; therefore she needs cats’ help more than anyone else. The main character, who plays almost in every scene of the movie, succeeds to be vulnerable without being pathetic and eccentric and quirky without being irritating. As the person who spends most of her time alone, she can more clearly see people, their peculiarities, and give a psychological evaluation of every client. This film is a comedy-drama that exposes aspects of the persistent problem of loneliness in urbanized society. Naoko Ogigami story takes place in the working-class suburbs of the big city. It tells a story of a thirty-something, boyish-looking, single cat lady that helps people with their solitude. This film is the sequence of renter’s stories that repeat the plot with small and slow development; despite its repetitions, the story has enough variation to ward off monotony. This essay describes the film’s peculiarities; its cinematography, editing, sound, and explores the main theme in relation to the films story.
The film is all about how a person struggles with its solitude and adjustment. Every cat renter experiences a different kind of loneliness. There are many reasons and many life events that may cause it. Usually, it can be because of lack of relations during childhood or physical absence of a close person in adolescence. Sayoko is a bit eccentric person trying to find her place in society by renting cats on her terms. She has a gift to see if a person likes cats and if he or she needs to heal the holes from loneliness in their hearts. It seems that she can see through people and give them some constructive advice like a good psychologist. In this way she helps people to find some comfort and solace in life. Every signing of the contract ends with the same dialogue about the payment but with the small development. The audience does not see the process of healing the wounds of solitude but knows that everything is in order when the cats return to their owner. An episodic plot tightly constructed to the narrative structure made this movie exciting and animated. The entire story is determined by the notion of eternal loneliness.
Unfortunately, solitude is common in modern urbanized world. People’s constant development and growing needs demand great sacrifices, people spend more time working to earn more; therefore, have less time for the enduring relationships. Despite all the problems with loneliness, the atmosphere is very relaxed and optimistic. Moreover, the interior looks very Japanese, and in contrast with the heroine's modest and modern take on life. Everything in the film, the costumes, the shrine in the living room, the web of clothesline, and the pig-shaped incense burner, are placed and shot for striking visual balance. Thrilling the audience with an aesthetically ingenious plot the film creates an atmosphere that no one, whether fond of animals or not, can resist. As comic as it may sound, Rent a Cat is a movie that brings out all the strangest things and, at the same time, lots of fascinating facts about Japan. Despite all the comic aspects of the plot, the film conveys a vital and universal message, covering it under the amiable mask of charming scenes and lovable characters.
In Japanese culture, cats play a prominent role, it is believed they have protective powers and symbolize good fortune. Maneki neko the beckoning cat is a lucky charm that is very common in Japan. Business owners put fortune ??at figurines in front of their shops hoping that the beckoning paw will bring in more money and customers. The talisman depicts a cat, traditionally a Japanese Bobtail, beckoning with paw, and is usually made of plastic or ceramic. In the movie, we can see maneki neko in the rent car office, near the box with the lottery. People believe that they are also the therapists, who can cure from emptiness caused by loneliness. Cats are often the stuff of legends, they embody mysticism; it is no wonder they are culturally significant for many nations. Japanese are devoted cat owners; they intensely revere cats for giving good luck and other abilities to cure people.
However, it may seem a rather ordinary tale about a cat renting business; Rent a Cat investigates the problem of solitude in our contemporary urbanized world. The main character named Sayoko lives in a typical Japanese household with a bunch of adorable cats. The characters in the film experience some internal spiritual hole in their hearts from loneliness. Every customer has its “wounds” represented by different things such as a hole in the jelly, in the sock, the hole from the donut or the entrance to the ants’ home. Until the end of the contract, these holes are filled with cat’s love and completely healed. The first customer is an elderly woman, who lives apart from her son because the speed of modern lifestyle and the constant need to earn money took him away from her. Lonely life caused a hole in her heart, and the red cat helped her to cure it; as the evidence the hole in the jelly was filled with cream. This story is about loneliness, how anyone in this world may feel alone and how another living being may fulfill them.
The whole film is beautiful, with mellow warm mise-en-scene that allows the scene to be peaceful and breathe. The use of light is crucial to this movie; the predominant colors are yellow, orange, red, and brown; they also support an overall calm atmosphere. The aerial extreme long shot of the first scene provided a look at the main character, at the yard, and the house. The deep focus and high camera angle make surrounding as detailed and significant as the actor itself. The background sound of cicadas, birds, and an indistinct noise of cars informs that Sayoko lives in the suburbs of the big city. Later during the film, simple piano or woodwind melody accompanies her calm and alternative lifestyle. The first scene is crucial for understanding the protagonist and its peculiarities; therefore I chose to focus some attention on it.
Good deals of scenes were filmed at the bank of the river, with Sayoko advertising her cats as a cure for loneliness. The cinema operator got a long uncut tracking shot, which created an impression of pulling the character when the actor walked facing the camera, and it moved backward. The editor used cutting on action from the wide shot of the subject in the surroundings to a closer shot of the character on same visual axis. Firstly, the audience sees Sayoko near the river and when the customer approaches her, there the cinema operator uses medium shot to provide a closer look at both. As most scenes, this one is accompanied by natural background noise and ambient light, which supported naturalness and ease of the whole film. I have picked these scenes because they depict the beginning of the customers’ healing process; therefore, they are quite vital.
For the scene with the first client, old lady, who took a fourteen-year-old red cat the cinema operator used the combination of different shots. When Sayoko examined the apartment, the cover shot helped to look at an entire scene, such long shot enabled the assembly of closer shots and details. The editor used classical editing, which preserved a sense of narrative continuity. The characters occupy two-thirds of the frame sitting and discussing the terms of the contract. The cinema operator took the medium shot for the characters to be seen closer but in relation to the surroundings. This scene has soft natural light mostly from the large windows; the light wraps around the objects, casting diffused shadows with soft edges. The end of this part is accompanied by march-like trumpet melody symbolizing the successful signing of the contract. This scene portrays the first customer, her home, Sayoko’s test for the new cat renter; therefore, quite significant and interesting.
One of my favorite episodes is the flashback to the school time and the sleep in the medical cabinet. I chose to describe it because the scene is very moving and heartwarming and provided a look at Sayoko’s childhood. With the help of comparatively close cover shot the medical cabinet is depicted in all details. The audience can see that Sayoko spends here most of her time that there are a lot of her drawings and cat-shaped magnets on the bed frame. The cinema operator again used natural light from the window that fills the room with soft light. The sound of cicadas and far noise of kids playing supports overall calm atmosphere that helps to sleep and rest. The relationship between Sayoko and Yoshizawa are not very friendly; however it seems that he is the only person in the whole school with whom she at least talk. The film adopts the calm and relaxed atmosphere of the hot summer, natural sound, and simple melodies only support it.
Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s groundbreaking work, Amelie is the movie that tells the story of a shy and timid waitress who only experiences loneliness. When she was a child, she even homeschooled, because of over-cautiousness of her father. Nonetheless, she does her best to break free from the isolation by helping people around her and with the course of time she discovers love. The audience gets to observe and explore the world and particularly Paris through the sparkling eyes and imaginary of Amelie. In my opinion, this film is truly outstanding, its cinematography and plot are brilliant, the music composed by Yann Tiersen is delightful, but above all is the overall positive atmosphere. The film is also a perfection of creativity with a fantastic story, emotion, and humor. It is one of the most sincere and vibrant cinema works ever made; furthermore this film goes far beyond its years.
Rent a Cat reflects Japanese culture and discusses fundamental human problems and values. Director Naoko Oggigami brings to life Sayoko’s world with warm colors and masterful camerawork that made this film very charming. The main heroin is a kind, intelligent but lonely person, who rents cats to help people to heal the “holes” in their hearts. Although her acting seems a bit unusual and eccentric, I cannot imagine this film shot with a different actress. The movie is a bit grotesque; although, without this notion it would be impossible to develop the main theme thoroughly. Despite that the fact that the story is pretty modest and simple, the quirky humor and engaging comedy performances help to make it quite exciting. Unfortunately, loneliness is a common issue in the modern world, and however, this film is about the cats, it discusses people and their problems and needs.