SIFF Triple Feature – Catwalk: Tales from the Cat Show Circuit, Hot Mess and The Faces Of Zandra Rhodes
Catwalk: Tales from the Cat Show Circuit: Cat owner Kim and her beautiful Turkish Angora Bobby seem poised to take first place in overall points on the Canadian Cat Associate circuit when Shirley and her gorgeous Red Persian Oh La La come out of retirement and upset the applecart. This film, directed by Michael McNamara and Aaron Hancox, details the trials and tribulations of the Canadian cat show world. What’s it like? A lot of travel, passive aggressiveness, and dealing with various judges who may or may not think your cat has what it takes to be a winner. The officials rate on trueness to the breed, beauty (which requires a crap ton of maintenance by the owners of the long-haired breeds), and personality. Well, not really personality, since most cats take a while to get to know. It’s more about energy and how the cat plays with some kind of toy on a string. (Not being a cat person, I have no idea what this is called.) Bobby and Oh La La compete neck and neck for most of the season, until a mystery white Persian shows up out of the blue to add even more complexity to the race to the top.
This is a very enjoyable light documentary. It manages to take the small dramas of the cat competition and make them compelling and fun to watch. And while the film doesn’t shy away from showing some of the less flattering aspects of Kim and Shirley’s competition, it treats them with enough compassion that they don’t look like jerks. The owner of the white Persian seems to take glee in throwing a spanner in the works, and it’s fun to watch an already mildly fraught relationship between the two protagonists get even tenser. It doesn’t reach the comedy heights of something like Best in Show (a mockumentary about dog shows) but it does have a gentle humor that really hit a good place with me.
Final Grade: A-
Catwalk plays at SIFF Cinema Uptown on May 19th and 20th and Shoreline on June 2nd
Hot Mess: Written and directed by Lucy Coleman, Hot Mess is the story of Loz (Sarah Gaul), who at 25 is still living at home with her parents. She works as a cleaner, but is really trying to jumpstart a career as a playwright. She hopes desperately to get a paying residency at the theater where she takes classes, but self-sabotages by writing a piece that references fisting, menstrual blood, and self-induced toxic shock syndrome as a method of suicide. (Not really appropriate for a youth theater.) She’s also not had sex in a year and is feeling pretty crap about herself. Enter Dave (Marshall Campbell). He’s a former Jehovah’s Witness Loz meets at a party, where she falls hard for his sweet manner and interesting backstory. She’s also incredibly charmed – albeit confused – by his reluctance to sleep with her on the first date. Rather than applying herself to writing her way into a better life, she seizes on the idea of Dave as a way out of her mess. She doesn’t need to fix what’s she’s broken; she just needs Dave to be her boyfriend, which will change her future without any major work on her part.
This is an often-painfully funny movie about how Loz focuses on romance as a distraction from the struggles of day-to day life. “If only I had a boyfriend, everything would be better!” If this was a romantic comedy, that statement would launch a story that would end with it being a true. In this film, what the lead really needs is a swift kick to get her back in gear career-wise, not a beau to distract her from what she really wants. This is a pretty low budget effort, and it shows in the static camera work and simple sets. But some sharp writing and a great performance by Gaul help it overcome those limitations, and I can’t wait to see what Coleman and Gaul do next. The humor is on the cringey side, so if that makes you squirm, this might not be for you. But if you are down for some dialogue-driven comedy, there’s a lot here to like.
Final Grade: B
Hot Mess plays at AMC Pacific Place on May 18, Majestic Bay on May 19, and Shoreline on May 26.
The Faces of Zandra Rhodes: This documentary directed by David Wiesehan about textile and fashion designer Zandra Rhodes feels like something that would play on the fashion channel in a swanky Taipei hotel lobby. (If that feels rather specific, I once stayed at a hotel in Taipei that played fashion videos in the lobby. They also sold condoms at the front desk. It might have been a sex hotel. My Taiwanese friend who recommended the place wouldn’t give me a straight answer when I asked him.) I’m not saying that’s a bad thing because there was a lot to enjoy here. Zandra Rhodes is an interesting and driven lady who has managed to be successful in the fashion world since the late sixties. While this film is a bit scattered and repetitive, it does manage to capture the spirit of Rhodes’ career and work philosophy. I wish I had learned more about her personal life because she seems like a really fascinating person, but there’s very little of that presented here. I would also have also enjoyed some critical analysis of her work. She draws from many different cultures to create her textiles and outfits, and a little discussion about cultural appropriation would have been in order. If you are into fashion history or a Zandra Rhodes fan, this film will give you a good look at her career.
Final Grade: C
The Faces of Zandra Rhodes plays at SIFF Cinema Uptown on May 24th and 26th.