English Title: Shôzô, a Cat and Two Women
Toho Film Company
Starring: Hisaya Morishige, Isuzu Yamada, Kyôko Kagawa
Directed by: Shirô Toyoda
Cat Out of the Bag Alert! This review contains some spoilers for this film!
Synopsis: Based on the book Neko to Shozo to Futari no Onna (A Cat, A Man and Two Women) by Jun’ichirô Tanizaki, this dark comedy follows a man named Shozo (Hisaya Morishige) whose older first wife Shinako (Isuzu Yamada) and younger second wife Fukoko (Kyôko Kagawa) are both jealous of the affection he shows for his cat, Lily.
Cinema Cat: Shozo is a milquetoast of a man who lives with his mother despite being married. Not only does the mother-in-law drive Shinako mad but Shozo has a strange obsession with his white and calico cat Lily.
Shozo can display affection openly for Lily, something he does not readily do with his wives.
Unable to take it any more, Shinako leaves him. Shozo then marries Fukoko, a much younger woman who is flighty and flirty, only she is even more opposed to sharing a home with Lily.
Lily is seen throughout the movie, sharing loving moments with Shozo, although the way Shozo carresses the cat and squeezes her too hard shows a rather unhealthy fascination. Shozo also laments the fact that Lily is getting older and isn’t as spry as she once was.
The rift between Shozo and Fukoko grows when she makes the effort to make mackerel and he feeds some to Lily. Fukoko insists that Shozo give Lily to his ex-wife and arranges for it to happen without his knowledge.
When Shozo finds out Lily is being sent away he races after her to say goodbye, asking her to memorize the way back to him.
Shinako is thrilled when Lily arrives but takes her frustration out on the cat, tethering Lily to a lamp so she can’t run away, which she does anyway.
Amazingly Lily returns to Shinako and she is thrilled, saying she will treasure her. In reality Shinako is just using Lily to lure back Shozo.
When Shozo finally visits Shinako he finds Lily standoffish and is concerned.
Realizing her plan won’t work, Shinako takes her anger out on Lily, who runs away. Shozo goes after the cat and finds her at their place on the beach, soaked in the rain.
Shozo and Lily are last seen walking away on the beach in the rain with nowhere to go.
Kitty Carnage Warning: What should have been a delightful and entertaining film is sadly marred by some absolutely appalling treatment of the cat actor (or actors) playing Lily. In numerous scenes both Shinako and Fukoko roughly pick up the cat and throw her violently or throw items at the poor cat. There is no cutting or fake animals used, these throws are done in real time and with the real cat.
Incredibly enough the cat actor not only seems to weather this treatment as best as possible but also comes back in one scene after being thrown, albeit timidly and likely with food being the primary motivation.
There are moments when Lily seems to cry out while Shozo is holding her as well. It’s hard to tell if she is being squeezed too hard or what.
Despite the treatment, Lily is the star of the show, stealing every scene and putting up with a lot of insanity and scary behavior. Thankfully filmmakers are more sensitive to their feline thespians these days. But considering this is a comedy, the treatment of Lily is particularly unfunny, no matter how dark the material is supposed to be.
Kitty Cameo: In one scene Shozo hears a cat meowing outside and thinks it is Lily returning to him. When he looks out he sees a black tom and tells the cat that Lily isn’t there.
Final Mewsings: We don’t ever want to see any cat actor treated this badly again!
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