Category Archives: Imaginary Belgian Cinema

#201 – Cat Elvis

(1986, Bel, 75 min) Dir Benoît Poolberde.

Documentary set amongst the world of competitive cat shows where Remy Bescreay has an ace up his sleeve – his fat feline called Elvis, who will sing and dance to the songs of his namesake. Okay, so it’s not really singing – Elvis merely goes WAOW rhythmically to the music though he does, to his credit, wiggle his hips in a reasonable imitation of the King while appearing to tolerate the wearing of a white sequined jump suit. For the films’ first half it seems as though mockery is the order of the day with footage from the 1984 Belgian National Cat Championship in Ostend doing little to dispel this notion with the camera focussing exclusively on the strangest of the competitors in both looks and behaviour. The back half of the film though, with Remy and Elvis in Tokyo for the International Feline Showcase, digs a lot deeper when Elvis becomes ill and Remy’s love for his cat, which goes beyond his use as a performer, comes to the fore and what begins as a showcase for easy laughs becomes a vessel for heartbreak.

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#195 Mon Maître Chien (Dog Boss)

(1985, Bel, 105 min) Dir Schipperke Tervuren. Cast Cierny Sery, Shiba Inu, Keeshond Samoyed.

Patrice (the perpetually hangdog Sery) has spent his life working his way up the ranks of the bottled water company Belle Eau Belge to get to the position of vice-president where he stalls, having to endure a decade of the abuse of the president Charles (a desiccated Samoyed) and deal with his bizarre requests. When the president dies Patrice thinks that his time has come but unfortunately for him Charles set out in his will that his dog – a chow-chow called Puffy Lion – take over the company. To Patrice’s surprise and annoyance the universally senile board approve this and thus he ends up second in command to a small dog that hates him. Initially he waits for things to go wrong on their own but is constantly thwarted – a potential business deal with the Japanese company Airashīdesu Nihonjin Mizu ends up more successful than imagined because the Japanese representative thinks that Puffy Lion has a nice face. In the end Patrice is forced to take matters into his own hands… A fantastically broad, surreal Belgian farce.

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#152 – Château, Le (Castle, The)

(1975, Bel, 91 min) Dir Helmut Durmou. Cast Hal Normand, Lisa Beit, Howard Messinger.

Dormou’s debut Elisa Lees had many fans, among them the middle-aged Belgian millionaire Francois Fleider who adopted the Swiss director as a kindred spirit and supported him with not just the money to make his films but also, for the making of Le Château, the use of his impressive residence in the South of France to film in. Fleider didn’t even ask to be featured in the films he funded, the usual vain request made as part of such a deal – all that he requested was to be present at the filming which Dormou allowed. The first result of this partnership, Le Château is set in an unnamed lush countryside where, once a year, the occupiers of the nearby hilltop castle audition for playthings among the local population and, more than that, said locals line up to be judged. The structure of the film allows for agonisingly long foreplay where what awaits those deemed worthy is hinted at but not fully revealed until the end. Not that this is a tip to those unwilling to wait – steady your fingers on the remote control, press ye not the fast forward button for the build up is the point and half the pleasure for Dormou now betrays a mastery of the suspense of film, of suggestion and denial that makes the release of the films denouement all the sweeter.

Twitter: @MadeUpFilms