The Cats of Mirikitani

Bullet Shih Jan, 2012 0
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Title: The Cats of Mirikitani
Artist: “Jimmy” Tsutomu Mirikitani
Date: 2006
Genre: Documentary
Subcategory: Outsider Art
Language : English
Director: Linda Hattendorf
Time: 74 min

Jimmy Mirikintani was a homeless artist living on the streets of lower Manhattan.  He is a congenial man who has a passion for painting cats.  We soon find that he was the victim of one of the greatest human rights violations perpetuated by the United Sates in the 20th century.  As an American born citizen of Japanese decent, at the outbreak of the Second World War he was stripped of his citizenship and placed in an internment camp for three and a half years.  “I am not a soldier boy, I am (an) artist!”, Mirikitani is quoted as saying.  Rather than painting traditional views of Mount Fuji, he was haunted by the mountainous backdrop of the Tule Lake internment camp which seemed to compete with cats as his primary subject matter.  He later had to watch in horror as celebrations ensued over the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima which vaporized his family and supposed home.  The start of the movie takes place within the shadow of 9/11 where New Yorkers were shocked by the terrorist attack and in an odd way became more aware and compassionate towards their neighbors.   Amidst the smoke and dust that eveloped lower Manhattan, Linda Hattendorf, a passing admirer of his work and a filmaker, takes him in off the street into her small apartment.  She begins to delve into his past and the path to understanding and reconciliation begins.

Interesting tidbits:Jimmy Mirikitani once cooked for Jackson Pollock.

Geek tidbits:  Virtually none other than the concept that an artist selling works on the streets of Soho may have actually been classically trained.


Art Geek Factor: 3 out of 10 Stars
Artistic Accuracy: 7 out of 10 Stars
Overall Movie: 7 out of 10 Stars

Summary: This is a touching movie that deals more with human frailty, perserverence , and compassion than art.  It also confirms and contradicts one of my favorite artist quotes by the late Louise Bougeois, “Artists are born and htere is nothing you can do to help them.”

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