If you follow me on Facebook, you probably know our son Michael's "She's Allergic to Cats," the feature film he wrote and directed, had its international debut Thursday night at the Fantasia Film Festival in Montreal. We drove up to see it.
We've been hearing about the film for nearly five years and we've seen Michael go through ups and downs of getting it made and screened. It's been a rollercoaster ride for him, but it was worth the wait. The film played to a sold-out audience; in fact, they had to turn some people away. The festival director loved the film and gave it great advance reviews that created lots of buzz.
The buzz was justified when the audience responded as the closing credits began to roll. And during the 30-minute audience Q&A, it was clear that they really liked it.
Now other film festivals are asking Michael if they can screen it, and more positive review are coming in. I'm excerpting some below.
Next steps include more screenings -- I'll let you know when and where once I know -- and hopefully theatrical and/or streaming distribution. (Netflix?)
It may sound corny, but our hearts were bursting with pride and happiness on the drive home Friday. And we're still floating, just imagining how good Michael has to feel.
We can't wait to see what's next. He told us about some things he has up his creative sleeve.
"THE FILM CORNER" - July 14, 2016
She's Allergic To Cats made me happier than happy. From the opening frames to the magnificent cut from a hilariously poignant final image to the first of the end title cards, I found the picture endlessly dazzling, deliriously perverse and rapturously romantic. This is exactly the kind of first feature which an original filmmaker should generate. Writer-director Michael Reich boldly announces his presence with a friendly fuck-you attitude, a great sense of humour and a visual style that should make some veteran directors be ashamed of their by the numbers camera jockey moves.
Here, director Reich deserves to win some manner of official accolade for creating the most depraved "meet-cute" in cinema history. All I will say is that it involves the incompetent clipping of a dog's nails on the quick, causing them to bleed.
The entire love story is mediated through Mike's filmmaking/video-art perspective. The result is a chiaroscuro-like melange of garish "video" colours, cheesy (though gorgeous) dissolves and plenty of sexy video tracking errors... There's a sad and deeply moving inevitability to where things go. Reich achieves the near-impossible. We laugh with his main character, we laugh at him and finally, we're given a chance to weep for him.
Yes, on many levels, She's Allergic to Cats is a head-film extraordinaire, but it has heart and soul. This is something of a miracle. Then again, this should come as no surprise. Getting the film made must have been a miracle and what Reich's efforts have yielded is nothing less than revelatory.
THE FILM CORNER RATING: **** 4-Stars
"BIRTH. MOVIES. DEATH" - July 22, 2016
Every film festival has its bizarre pieces of outsider art that get a lot of buzz for how batshit weird they are. But too many of those films end up disappointing. Maybe their weirdness is all there is to them. Maybe they’re only funny because they’re ineptly made. Or maybe the directors are too savvy and self-aware for the weirdness to feel “real.” I’ve been burned by 'em all.
But video artist and former dog groomer Michael Reich’s debut feature She’s Allergic To Cats deftly avoids such pitfalls by somehow being completely genuine in its weirdness and yet telling a clear, simple story. Simultaneously bizarre and conventional, She’s Allergic is a paradox and a miracle: a film informed by (and part of) a dirty VHS aesthetic, without being subsumed by it, filled with surreal humour that’s not there by accident.
In a cinematic culture dominated by superhero stories with world-ending consequences, the rock-bottom stakes of She’s Allergic are a delightful refreshment. By projecting insignificant struggles up to cinema-screen scale, the film captures the weight of despair that can descend upon those for whom small tasks seem insurmountable. By being rooted in (somewhat) relatable problems, too, the story is made accessible to everyone - and for such a strange movie, it’s told in a surprisingly conventional way.
She’s Allergic To Cats is a deceptively intelligent movie driven by pitch-perfect outsider comedy, and a surprisingly emotional ride through a series of everyday tragedies writ large. It’s funny and confounding and adorable and gross all at once, and I love it to goddamn pieces.
Fantasia Film Festival program guide
In an era where we’re regularly seeing films calculated to be “weird” by design, here’s an intoxicatingly insane breath-of-fresh-air coming from a place so genuine and strange it cannot be faked. Is it a comedy? A horror film? A romance? A fever dream? Yes! An experimental observational comedy, popping with brilliant, stream-of-consciousness, surrealist detours and a brand of melancholic absurdity that’s distinctly its own, SHE’S ALLERGIC TO CATS is an inspired feature debut from former dog groomer and documenter of L.A.’s underground punk scene Michael Reich, funded entirely by working as a body double for one of the Daft Punk robots.
Easily one of the coolest indie discoveries of 2016, this is the kind of singular outsider brilliance we pray to encounter. A film that doesn’t look or feel like anything else, hyper-imaginatively put together, personal, bizarre beyond words, often imbued with the aesthetics of lo-fi analog video art and packing a sense of humour so sincere and individualistic you will instantly be won over — this is the real deal in every sense.