|Sekai kara neko ga kietanara 2016 Japan If Cats Disappeared from the World|
There isn't really anything to spoil about this film but I may end up describing it in its entirety. You've been warned.
The TL;DR version:
A young postman has one day left to live and makes a Faustian deal to prolong his time on earth.
The full story:
First pass I watched some guy ride around on his bike with a cat in the front basket. There's voice-over narration of the ilk: "If I disappeared from this world who on earth would be sad for me". I thought: "Beginnings can be as hard as endings, maybe I should give it a chance". Nope. This music is unforgivable. PUNT!
But I'm a cat person and I still sort of love Miyazaki Aoi. I should at least watch it until she shows up.
Second pass The postman meets the devil who is played by the same actor. In order to differentiate himself from the meek and sweet postman, the devil actor bad eating-acts a potato chip. A Pringle, if I'm not mistaken. That's all it takes, folks: one potato chip. PUNT!
Thid pass I decided to jump forward for some Miyazaki love. I see her and the postman facing each other in front of a movie theater. She says: "If there were no phones then we wouldn't have met each other". He says: "I'm going to die tomorrow". She looks sad and says "So that's why ..." and the scene cuts away to the postman on a train with unforgivable music.
For unknown reasons I decided I needed to discover the context of such a ridiculous move, so I went back to the beginning and started over with my thumb on the mute button, index finger on the FF button.
Full disclosure. The film is 103 minutes long. I watched about 85 minutes of it, and listened to about 60. Keep that in mind.
The Big Picture:
If Cats Disappeared from the World isn't about cats. It's about:
- "If I disappeared from this world who on earth would be sad for me"
- "In order to gain something you have to lose something"
- "It'll just get harder to say farewell later"
- "Always show the good part of yourself"
- "Struggling and worrying are proof we're alive"
I'd rate the subtitles about a 6/10 (and the movie as a whole, btw), but you get the picture.
The photography is gorgeous. The director knows how to shoot film and seems steeped in film culture and criticism. There are occasional visual homages to other films, like the bridge in Buenos Aires from Wong Kar wai's Happy Together. I have a soft spot for that. There is also some interesting soundtrack work when the piano takes a break. There are also some nice uptempo fantastical scenes. I cried twice. I'm going to keep my eye on this director. I think he's got chops but I can't explain why he destroyed this film with such bullshît music.
So ... it's not about cats. It's about four things: phones, movies, clocks, and cats. The Faustian deal is that the devil will give the guy one extra day of life for each thing he can disappear from the world.
Phones are first. What the postman doesn't immediately realize is that the devil isn't just going to take them away, he is going to make it as though they never existed. Hence: "If there were no phones then we wouldn't have met each other". Sads. The postman runs to the movie theater where his ex-girlfriend works, yeah, Aoi is his ex, and she has no idea who he is. Double sads. The devil shows up and says:
Movies are second. Boom! The theater disappears. It turns out that the postman's best friend is a movie nut who works in a DVD rental shop. Oh no!
Dig this shenanigan: The friend, as these types are wont to do, has lent postman a movie everyday to watch to bring him up to speed on cinema. One of them was Metropolis. Cut to postman watching it. His phone rings. It's Aoi, but she has dialed the wrong number. She's about to hang up when she hears Metropolis playing in the background. She describes the scene to him and spoils the ending. Bond, much? They fall in love, etc.
The film is complex. This is where my love for it grows. The director juggles doppelgangers, flashbacks, dueling timelines, and top of the line coincidences deftly. This is one of those films that if you think about the central conceit too much it falls apart. You know, the way you can with most time travel flicks. Here the director doesn't lose points for doing all these things, he gets points for doing them well. That's hard.
Clocks are third. The postman's dad is a clocks-man. See what I mean? I kind of missed this part because of ickiness, I think. But I don't care. I didn't like the stereotypical, cold, Japanese dad anyway.
Cats are fourth. There's all kinds of mushiness about the postman and his dying (in a flashback), yes dying mom and cats. One named 'Lettuce', and one named 'Cabbage'.
Postman draws the line at cats.
If I'd have watched this before Himeanole, I might not have liked Himeanole as much. The guy who plays the movie nerd here played the lead weeny in Himeanole. He's pretty bad here and I can tell he's a single range actor/kid. That would have been a hurdle. Takeru Satoh, of Rurouni Kenshin fame plays the postman/devil. I think he does a good job as the postman. The devil, with his introductory bad eating-acting, not so much. Aoi Miyazaki is Aoi Miyazaki.
Summary: Following the death of his mother a thirty-year old man decides to leave his father's house and live independently. Soon he has a cat as well. When he soon receives surprising news he is offered a Faustian bargain that could change everything for everyone.