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She's Allergic to Cats
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by Jay Seaver

"OK, but you can't promise 'Cat Carrie' and then not deliver."
3 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2016 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: The main character of "She's Allergic to Cats" spends his time making lo-fi video art and dreams of remaking "Carrie" with cats, and while it doesn't always work out this way, there's probably a decent correlation between how much a potential viewer finds this a reasonable use of one's time and how much he or she will be into the movie. It aims to be peculiar, so it is probably fortunate that its particular flavor of weird is not exactly hidden away.

Mike Pinkney came to Los Angeles to make movies, but that's a pretty competitive field, especially considering his fairly esoteric ideas, so instead he's barely scraping by grooming dogs and making plaintive entreaties about the rat infestation to his landlord (Honey Davis), who is not particularly inclined to let responsibilities to his tenant distract him from his music career, such as it is. It could be worse, though - he may not be a particularly good pet groomer and most people think his ideas are crap, but Mickey Rourke's daughter's assistant Cora (Sonja Kinski), who takes their dogs to the shop where he works, seems to like him. Maybe a date wouldn't be a disaster.

If writer/director Michael Reich were interested in making a more mainstream film, it's not something that would be terribly far out of reach. Though the details will occasionally emphasize the grimy elements of the life where Mike has landed and his artistic ideas are eccentric at best, he actually approaches the film as a very grounded comedy much of the time - the audience isn't going to spend a lot of time wondering whether or not something really happened or having to work their heads around impossibly surreal sequences of events. The folks Mike encounters may be weird or selfish, but they're kind of familiar comic types at heart - Honey Davis (as himself) and Flula Borg, as Mike's bluntly skeptical German agent, could drop into a more conventional Hollywood story without much issue.

Mike and Cora aren't quite so easily pigeonholed, though, and seeing them interact is what gives the film its unique life. The film springs from situations that the real-life Mike Pinkney and filmmaker Reich have been in, so it's natural enough for Pinkney to play himself, more or less, and he certainly seems at home in a series of mortifying situations offsetting what could be despair with a quietly desperate hope. Kinski gives Cora a certain amount of self-assurance, but she fits with Pinkney in ways that don't seem obvious, entering every situation with an unforced confidence when it might be more natural to raise an eyebrow.

The potentially huge stumbling block - but also arguably a thing that makes the film feel real - is that Reich shoots the film the way that the movie's Mike Pinkney might, using available light that highlights the seediness of the rat-trap apartment and other low-rent locations and then degrading what he did shoot on high-definition video until it's third-generation VHS. In some ways, that's an annoying affectation - I do not recommend seeing this on the big screen while sitting in the front row, as it's like sandpaper on the eyes at that scale - but it is a nifty reflection of the way Mike-the-character makes his own art on top of adding a rougher edge to what could threaten to be something weirdly hip, keeping it in the uncool, dangerous fringes.

That's where it belongs, and where both the fictional and real-life versions of these characters find themselves as artists. It's a frequently funny slice of strangeness, but just as the stuff this guy makes isn't for everybody, a movie about the guy making it isn't for everybody, either.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=30578&reviewer=371
originally posted: 07/30/16 14:44:23
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2016 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the 2016 Fantasia International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2017 Boston Underground Film Festival For more in the 2017 Boston Underground Film Festival series, click here.

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Directed by
  Michael Reich

Written by
  Michael Reich

Cast
  Mike Pinkney
  Sonja Kinski



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