The Island of Cats @ Fantasia

Yes, I do own a cat. Yes, I do love animals. But I don’t consider myself a cat lady. You know the type. With everything cats. Cat t-shirts. Cat bags. I say all this to let you know that I was not going to like a film just because it had cats in it. Japanese film The Island of Cats directed by Mitsuaki Iwago (first film) is not your typical Fantasia film.

Even though the film is based on the manga “Neko to Jiichan” by Nekomaki, again this is not your typical genre film. No oddness, fighting, darkness or oddball humour. Rather it is all about a simple human life. And cats.

Living on a small island and being a widower, 70-year-old Daikichi’s (Shinosuke Tatekawa) whole life is his 6-year-old tabby, Tama. The two are a fixture on the island. They take walks together and socialize with the other residents….or cats. Daikichi has a group of friends while Tama is rather taken by a calico named Princess.

Daikichi has a son, Tsuyoshi (Takashi Yamanaka – Fish Story, Villain), who lives in Tokyo. As his father is getting older, Tsuyoshi wants Daikichi to come live with him. With Tama, of course. It is a tough decision for someone who was born and lived his entire life on the small island.

The island is a haven for humans and cats alike. No violence. Easy pace of life. Few cars. Plenty of fish. Totally a place many of us would like to vacation to. Total opportunity to live at a different pace of life and to completely unplug from today’s hectic world. We just have to look at the cats and imitate them eating fish and lying around in the sun.

It is a film which will tug at your heartstrings. Totally cute in sections and quite emotional in others. There were plenty of instances of the entire audience uttering “awwww” at the same time and noses being blown after sad or poignant parts.

I spent much of the film wondering how they got the shots of the cats they did. Obviously, especially if you know anything about cats, they do not act and almost always do as they wish. And yet right on cue they approach people or jump up on them. Amazing really.

The cinematography here is stellar. Plenty of shots which capture cats in their natural state. Doing what they do best like jumping, playing, cleaning themselves, fighting, knocking things down, and rubbing all over humans.

Part of me, after watching this film, just wanted to move to this island. Live a carefree, idyllic life surrounded by cats and people you have known your entire life.

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