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Orphan kitty Tamala heads off to Orion, much to the annoyance of her snake-charming human foster parent. En route, she finds herself in the city of Hate on Planet Q, where she befriends a cat called Michelangelo. Michelangelo later believes that Tamala has been murdered by Kentauros, an evil stalker who we also see sexually tormenting his pet mouse Penelope. Tamala, however, has a secret of her own, which is eventually revealed to Michelangelo by a maggot-infested zombie.

Loaded with ambient music, aimless vignettes, super-retro animation in a 1960s style, and highbrow bricolage, Tamala 2010 has very little to do with punks, and much more to do with the art-house notion that audiences will be too afraid to say that something makes no sense. A well-known Japanese shipping company, whose logo is a cute little cat, once reputedly complained about the exploitation of their brand identity in Kiki's Delivery Service. Back then, their grievances were supposedly curtailed by making them coproducers. But the same company is liable to be less than happy with Tamala 2010, which dares to suggest that a feline-themed postal service is really the modern-day front for an ancient cult of human sacrifice, which now lays waste in a different way, by encouraging the pointless consumption of worthless trash goods.

But Tamala 2010 isn't quite as smart as it thinks it is. Like Hello Kitty scripted by Samuel Beckett, with all the futile pretension that implies, it bolts together a series of random scenes, united only by grasping attempts to gain gravity by association. Visual and textual allusions abound, to everything from Querelle to Metropolis, The Happy Prince to 2001: A Space Odyssey, but beneath its knowing surfaces, Tamala 2010 has little to say. Ultimately, it's a brilliant five-minute feline conspiracy thriller, ludicrously and counterproductively stretched to feature-length.

Shot primarily in a faux-monochrome that recalls Felix the Cat, its black and white frames are cunningly augmented with subtle spots of earth tones-browns, blues, and greens that give the film a surreal edge. There are also moments of computer graphics, color animation, and even a prolonged sequence of a real-life highway. Tamala 2010 plays like the combined graduation shorts of a fine arts college, stuck in a blender and randomly reassembled. But if you want to put on a beret, stroke your goatee, sip espresso and tell the freshman semiotics class that it's all incredibly meaningful, then you'll help perpetuate the latest outing for the Emperor's new clothes.

One gets the impression that Tamala 2010's makers realized this themselves, as much of what passes for "plot" is delivered in a rambling voice-over at the end of the movie, as if their tutor had told them they weren't going to get a grade at all unless they talked some sense. Until then, it comprises little more than self-conscious wackiness and an irritating feline ingenue, wandering through cheap animation that polite reviewers would call a triumph of irony. Since Tamala 2010 soon gained its own merchandising line in the style of Hello Kitty, it is tempting to add that whatever worthy point its creators thought they were making has been well and truly blunted.

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Name: Tamala 2010
Release Date: Jan. 1, 2003
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Rating: None
Runtime: 92 (mins)
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Aliases A Punk Cat in Space
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