Courtesy photoFun with felines: Mikako Ichikawa

Courtesy photoFun with felines: Mikako Ichikawa

Visual catnip at Mill Valley film fest

Fondness for cats is not a requirement to get the full measure of “Rent-a-Cat” — interest in people and appreciation for excellence are more important.

Naoko Ogigami’s film, screening Oct. 12-13 at the 35th Mill Valley Film Festival, is quirky, funny, sweet but not sugary, engaging and moving.

In her early 30s, the main character in “Rent-a-Cat” feels the world is  closing in on her. Mysteriously loved by cats, she has little luck finding human companionship.

With a tone reminiscent of “The Glass Menagerie” and the original Japanese “Shall We Dance,” “Rent-a-Cat” follows Sayoko (Mikako Ichikawa) as she goes about her daily routine taking care of her small house and yard, with cats everywhere.

She conducts her business walking around town with a cart, parasol and megaphone, looking for lonely people who would benefit from renting a cat.

Each episode is bittersweet and memorable, adding up to an experience that stays with the viewer. Ogigami, 40 — who studied film at the University of Southern California and has been making feature films (“Yoshino’s Barber Shop,” “Glasses”) in Japan for the past decade — repeats situations and phrases with slight variations. The result is hypnotic, making “Rent-a-Cat” just as unpredictable as … cats.

As typical, the festival also boasts big names: It opens Thursday with David O. Russell’s “Silver Linings Playbook” starring  Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro in Mill Valley; and with Walter Salles’ “On the Road” starring Garrett Hedlund, Sam Riley, Kristen Stewart, Amy Adams, Kirsten Dunst and Viggo Mortensen in San Rafael.

A late-addition highlight is Michael Haneke’s “Amour,” with Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva; it won the Palme d’Or Prize at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival.

Closing night is “Life of Pi,” directed by Ang Lee, and based on Yann Martel’s novel about the young survivor of a shipwreck, cast away in a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger, and starring Gerard Depardieu, Suraj Sharma and Tabu.

Billy Bob Thornton, Ben Affleck and Ken Burns are among other celebrities attending, along with Dustin Hoffman, who will screen his directorial debut “Quartet” at a sold-out benefit on Oct. 9.  The film is about aging opera singers (Tom Courtenay, Billy Connolly, Pauline Collins) in a retirement home who are surprised when a famous diva (Maggie Smith) arrives unexpectedly.

IF YOU GO

Mill Valley Film Festival

Where: CinéArts@Sequoia, 25 Throckmorton Ave., Mill Valley; Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center, 1118 Fourth St., San Rafael, and other venues

When: Thursday through Oct. 14

Tickets: $13.50 most screenings

Contact: (877) 874-6833, www.mvff.com

SELECT HIGHLIGHTS

“On the Road”: 6:30 and 6:45 p.m. Thursday, Rafael 1 and 2

“Silver Linings Playbook”: 7 and 7:15 p.m. Thursday, Sequoia 1 and 2

“Amour”: 7:15 p.m. Oct. 9, Sequoia 2

“Rent-a-Cat”:
6  p.m. Oct. 12, Rafael 1; noon Oct. 13, Sequoia 2

 “Life of Pi”:
5 p.m. Oct. 14, Rafael 1; 5:15 p.m. Oct. 14, Sequoia 2

artsentertainmentMoviesOn the RoadWalter Salles

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Dave Hodges, pastor at Zide Door, the Church of Entheogenic Plants that include marijuana and psilocybin mushrooms, holds some psychedelic mushrooms inside the Oakland church on Friday, July 22, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
Psychedelic spirituality: Inside a growing Bay Area religious movement

‘They are guiding us into something ineffable’

San Francisco Police stand guard outside the Mission Police Station during a protest over the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd on Saturday, May 30, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Fired: California bill aims to decertify police for serious misconduct

By Robert Lewis CalMatters On a Wednesday afternoon in April 2018, Gardena… Continue reading

The Giants and Dodgers face each other again following a May series the Dodgers swept; Dodgers shortstop Gavin Lux caught stealing by Giants second baseman Donovan Solano at Oracle Park on May 23 is pictured. 
Chris Victorio/
Special to The Examiner
Giants vs. Dodgers: What you need to know before this week’s huge series

By Chris Haft Special to The Examiner That grinding noise you’ll hear… Continue reading

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Monday that state employees and health care workers must be vaccinated or undergo weekly testing and wear masks. (Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters)
California orders vaccine or testing for health care workers, state employees

By Ana B. Ibarra CalMatters Amid an uptick in COVID-19 cases and… Continue reading

Jeremy Kahn and Monica Ho are excellent in San Francisco Playhouse’s production of Lauren Yee’s “The Song of Summer,” being presented live and online. (Courtesy Jessica Palopoli)
Touching relationship at heart of ‘Song of Summer’

Lighthearted SF Playhouse show ‘feels right for this moment’

Most Read