Review: ‘Tamala 2010: A Punk Cat in Space’

Japanese visual arts and music collective t.o.L. tosses in the whole kitty and caboodle of pop culture iconography in animated "Tamala 2010: A Punk Cat in Space." Muddled but amusing account of a feline who travels through time and space is fueled by irony and incongruity. Toon should purr its way to fest berths and ancillary interest among the hip.

Japanese visual arts and music collective t.o.L. tosses in the whole kitty and caboodle of pop culture iconography in animated “Tamala 2010: A Punk Cat in Space.” The kind of tale where even viewers who didn’t miss a frame will feel as if they entered in the middle, muddled but amusing account of an adorable yet profanity-prone feline who travels through time and space is fueled by irony and incongruity. Rhapsodically weird toon, which has sprouted home turf merchandizing from action figures to stationery supplies, should purr its way to fest berths and ancillary interest among the hip.

Although set mostly in the future, venture — which veers from 3500 B.C. (“Before Cats”) to Verona, Italy, in 1436, to Shanghai, China, in 2032 — is freighted with a sense of nostalgia. Drawn in shades of gray with dramatic interludes of color, toon’s look is Hello Kitty meets Speed Racer meets Blade Runner by way of Betty Boop, an off-kilter blend of rudimentary style and surreal content with claws.

Riding solo into the cosmos from CatEarth en route to investigating galactic powerhouse Catty & Co.; encountering the Dark God of Death; learning of an epic calamity in which 200,000 kitties met a fiery demise or examining a Hieronymous Bosch-like canvas depicting cats being disemboweled, are all in a day’s work for the title critter.

Despite her saucer eyes and cutesy face, Tamala’s brash utterances (the English-lingo profanity is pronounced within the Japanese dialogue) would make Lenny Bruce blush. (Fritz the Cat may be an American relative.) Hypnotic and varied score, also concocted by t.o.L. and keyed to the intergalactic visuals’ abrupt shifts in tone, is the cat’s meow.

Tamala 2010: A Punk Cat in Space

Japan

Production

A Kinetique production. Produced by Seiichi Tsukada, Kazuko Mio, t.o.L. Directed, written by t.o.L.

Crew

Camera (color), t.o.L.; editor, Kensuke Kawamura; animation, t.o.L., Kentaro Nemoto; music, t.o.L., performed by Trees of Life; character design, t.o.L.,Nemoto. Reviewed at Chicago Film Festival, Oct. 10, 2003. Running time: 91 MIN.
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