Good Cat in Screenland
(2010) 75 min. DVD: $49: individuals, high schools & public libraries; $119: colleges & universities.
Richard Cohen Films (web: www.richardcohenfilms.com). PPR.
The first two words in the title of Richard Cohen’s documentary refer to the famous dictum of Deng Xiaoping—who launched the transformation of the Chinese economy after Mao Tse-Tung’s death—that it doesn’t matter whether a cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice. Good Cat in Screenland takes viewers to a historic hotel in Culver City, CA, that would-be Chinese-born entrepreneurs Joseph Guo and Abraham Hu tried to turn into a going concern. Cohen, who lived at the hotel for years and conducted extensive interviews on camera with the partners, residents, guests, and staff members, uses this story as a microcosm to explore the difficulties that a Chinese generation brought up under a communist regime faces in adapting to the very different practices of western capitalism. But the film can also be simply enjoyed as an account of the odd ways in which a pair of ambitious but clueless guys struggled to make an old Hollywood landmark pay (at one point, Guo tried to parlay the fact that most of the little people who played Munchkins in The Wizard of Oz were housed there into a commercial bonanza, naming the hotel restaurant after them—to no avail). DVD extras include the short documentary Good Kitty in Screenland, which focuses on a number of hotel guests—several jazz musicians, as well as an elderly woman who was instrumental in a landmark court case that secured equal pension rights for female employees. Recommended. Aud: C, P. (F. Swietek)