San Francisco International Film Festival

At the San Francisco International Film Festival, both of the films I saw feature under-achieving male characters who are trying to negotiate the expectations of others with their own desires.

Good Cats opens with a scene in which young Luo Liang is being lauded by an unseen fortuneteller of a bountiful and fortuitious future. Luo is clearly convinced by the fortuneteller’s effusions.

After all, he has a job working for a real estate developer Boss Peng, even though the job consists of chauffering Peng around, acting as an ad hoc body guard and picking up the office lunch. He seems unconcerned that his boss is trying to cheat the local villagers of their land.

Wang’s wife, however, grow frustrated with his low aspirations. You’re nothing but a lackey, she complains. She’s tired of his junky motorcycle and the frequent breakdown of the appliances. Meanwhile, Luo’s uncle and mentor falls into a financial pitfall that Luo can’t do anything about.

The title eludes to Deng Xiaoping’s quote that a cat’s color doesn’t matter as long as it catches the mouse. The movie is effective in highlighting the corruption and dejection that follows the race to catch the mouse.

The despair is punctuated by appearances of Chinese gothic metal band, Lamb’s Funeral. I understand the director is using the band as a Greek chorus to emphasize the dismal conditions, but its first appearance in a middle of a scene was a surprise. They appear out of nowhere with their microphones in hand, breaking the mood of a solemn scene. Plus, the band’s song lyrics seems amateur in a angst-ridden, Death-guild that evoked chuckles from the audience.

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