There is a point on the cinematic spectrum where cheapo grade-Z schlock starts to approach the style and texture of low-fi “expression for expression’s sake” experimental film. This movie understands that place because it lives there. Obsession and humiliation are just part of ordinary life for a video artist working on the fringes of Hollywood in Michael Reich’s She Allergic to Cats (trailer here), which screens tonight during the 2017 Boston Underground Film Festival.
Mike Pinkney plays Mike Pinkney, an aspiring filmmaker who came to Hollywood to become a filmmaker, but found the town had not awaited his arrival with great anticipation. Currently, he works as a dog-groomer, a job he hates and is terrible at doing, as we can see from his Mekas-esque video diaries, dressed up with retro-1980s off-the-shelf computer effects. However, it is through his work at Tail-Waggers that he meets the alluring Cora.
Oddly enough, Pinkney will have more luck pursuing Cora than anything else he tries. He still dreams of making his version of Stephen King’s Carrie with talking cats, but he has no support from his bullying German agent Sebastian. He also can’t get his club rocker landlord Honey Davis, played by Honey Davis from Honey Davis and the Bees to do anything about his rat infestation problem. So, do you see where this might be going?
Reich and cinematographer Zach Driscoll deserve tremendous credit for nailing the look of either terrible exploitation films or ambitious avant-garde cinema. Someone should be embarrassed how aesthetically compatible Allergic to Cats is with Joan Jonas’s Double Lunar Dogs—and it isn’t Reich. However, that does not change the fact all Allergic’s cheesy graphics and VHS tracking effects are likely to give you a stress migraine.
It is actually sort of fun to watch Sonja Kinski (daughter of Nastassja) and Pinkney play off each as Cora and his meta-self, at least in their early scenes together. Flula Borg is also a contemptuous riot as the arrogant Sebastian. However, the cold hard truth is a little of Allergic goes a long, long way.
Still, just about everyone will agree this is the film The Truth About Cats and Dogs should have been in a more interesting world. The more you relate to Pinkney’s circumstances, the more you will likely appreciate its deliberately off-putting vibe. Basically, you should already know with absolute certainty whether She’s Allergic to Cats is for you, so plan accordingly when it screens today (3/25) at this year’s Boston Underground Film Festival.