If the slice-of-life, small independent film makes a comeback, it will owe a lot to Ed Burns and his great pictures. Looking for Kitty had a brief theatrical run, but hopefully will find its audience on DVD. It's a fantastic gem that's injected with a more thoughtful, even melancholy beat, juxtaposed with sincere humor and a great eye for the camera. Burns also knows how to properly use music in film to capture the emotional heart of it. All of these are trademarks of Burns' films and this one is no exception.
Burns loves New York and that much is readily clear in Looking for Kitty, a reflection of two lost and lonely men that if not quite an "odd couple" are different and idiosyncratic enough to create a nice contrast set against the big city. Burns plays Jack Stanton, a small-time detective hired by Abe, a Peekskill softball coach whose wife has run out on him. Jack is a misanthrope who doesn't eat in restaurants and as we discover, is still profoundly affected by the death of his wife. Abe is slightly goofy, but kind-hearted, avoiding coffee and "international foods" of all kinds (except Italian.) The picture is rounded out by a supporting cast of characters that underscore themes of loneliness and isolation. Without every going too dark or depressing, Looking for Kitty is bittersweet and ultimately hopeful, and a film worth returning to time and again.
As with all of Burns' own pictures, the commentary track is great, insightful and lively, and demonstrates why his films are as good as they are -- he's interesting and he's full of interesting ideas. Can't say I agree with all of them, however. Both in the film and on the commentary track he knocks Star Wars, its adult fans and the films' importance in cinema history, and while I concur that neither the works of Fellini nor Truffaut deserved to be lessened in value, it's really only natural that later films would come along to supplant them to some degree -- and Star Wars is probably one of the most worthy candidates to do that. It's just a generational thing. In another 25 years, it will be something else. Lucas also works outside the Hollywood system that Burns understandably detests, and Star Wars was the catalyst for a lot of positive and important changes in moviemaking. That it also triggered Hollywood's greed for bigger and more successful blockbusters isn't the films' fault (nor was it a new idea to Hollywood circa 1977.) But it did capture the imagination of a generation and it did usher in a new era of modern myth in film and literature. Looking for Kitty is ultimately about learning to let go, but one thing that adults should never let go of is the love of good stories. And there are many different kinds of stories, from the personal and heartfelt such as this film, to the larger-than-life epics like Star Wars, and each has its value and place.