"It's human nature to want to be on top," says one of the two women most focused on in the Canadian documentary Catwalk: Tales From the Cat Show Circuit. The thing is, she's talking about her cat. The cat -- as in, not human -- is pretty certain, I imagine, it doesn't give a shit.
Co-directors Aaron Hancox and Michael McNamara are clearly going for a bit of a tongue-in-cheek tone for this movie. The opening shots are of a photographer snapping shots of a cat giving stereotypical orders for poses like he's a fashion photographer talking to a model. This tone is sort of fun, but doesn't quite stay consistent.
Catwalk is sort of "Best In Show Lite," and, not to put down Canada here, but I suspect a movie like this would have succeeded a lot better in that endeavor had it been filmed in the U.S. We just have a lot more eccentrics to choose from, is all -- and, presumably, a lot more cat shows. To be fair, the only noticeable cultural difference in this film is strong Canadian accents coming through whenever someone says a word like "about."
Still, Catwalk is pleasant enough, and deliberately silly, in ways both subtle and corny. The narrative pits two middle-aged women against each other, both competing for their purebred cats to have the most cat show "points" in the nation. "We like each other," though, one of them says. Then she adds with a laugh, "We just wish ill of each other's cats!"
Their story goes on, with other rivals who show up along the way as they travel from city to city for cat shows across Canada, and just a few stumbling blocks, such as when Bobby the Turkish Angora hacks up a big hairball in the middle of being examined by a judge. Bobby's rival, Oh La La the Red Persian, is impeccably groomed and widely regarded as beautiful (why anyone thinks that of smash-faced Persians, I'll never know), and having no such slip-ups proves to be in her favor. Or in the favor of her owner, I guess. It's the ladies -- nearly all of them are (surprise!) middle-aged ladies -- who have any emotional investment here.
I suppose I could be wrong about this with Canadian audiences, but otherwise I'm not sure this movie has transcendent mainstream appeal on par with Best In Show. But, it will certainly keep cat lovers entertained. I'm not even sure calling this a "SIFF Advance" screening is quite accurate in this case -- will this get a wide release in U.S. theatres? I have no idea. Evidently Canadians can already watch it on CBC.
I suppose, if nothing else, if you liked Kedi, about the cats of Istanbul, then you're bound to like this doc about show cats in Canada -- although the former is presented in a comparative culture context, and the latter is more of a lighthearted journey through a season of shows with the Canadian Cat Association. It's not quite as funny as it clearly wishes to be, but it's fun all the same. That said, where is my documentary about American cats, damn it? Make American Cats Again! #MACA