Tag Archives: Cats

#97 – Walking on a Moonbeam

(1968, US/Fr, 80 min) Dir Dean Wold.

After a proposed Little Nemo feature fell through Dean Wold had to span the Atlantic for his first feature, the funds for an idiosyncratic non-Disney animation such as this not immediately forthcoming in his home country. Whether this contributed to his decision for the film to be entirely dialogue free is open to debate – the man himself has given contradictory accounts in his rare interviews. Either way the decision works and no doubt contributed, along with the stream of consciousness plotting, to the film being embraced by the counter-culture on its release. Not that this isn’t a children’s film because it most certainly is. A unnamed boy is woken in the night by a beam of moonlight under his bedroom window’s blind. He pulls up the blind to investigate further and sees, to his surprise, a cat outside the window frolicking on the beam as though it were a solid road leading to the moon. He lifts the sash window and tentatively steps out to follow the scampering kitten and ends up travelling all the way to the moon where it appears all manner of creatures live – men made of melting cheese, hot air balloon heads floating through the skies and, in a fit of virtuoso animation, a ball room made of shimmering glass populated by similarly glistening glass dancers. As this description might suggest the influence of Nemo is writ large here. These adventures end with the boy back in his bed, tucked in for his parents to find him in the morning, both of them baffled by the appearance of a new pet cat in his room. A charming and inventively made film that brought the unknown Wold to the world’s attention.

www.imaginaryfilmguide.com

Twitter: @MadeUpFilms

#87 – Chat Magique, Le (Magic Cat, The)

(1974, Fr, 62 min) Dir Alexander Illienko. Cast Gaspard Tif, Martine Blanc, Oscar Blanc.

The last film, produced for television, from the tragically ‘lost’ Ukrainian director prior to his death in Paris in 1977, based on what has to be the greatest success of his career – the children’s book Le Chat Magique which he himself wrote and illustrated. As per the book the film takes place in L’Hôtel Vert Bouteille (based on Illienko’s residence in his later years, L’Hôtel Vert Billard) where the young Gaspard lives. Hearing noises from the laundry chute one night Gaspard goes to investigate and finds Miu, a purple magic cat that lives in the hotel unbeknownst to it’s owners. They become friends and the mischievous Miu comes to stay with Gaspard in his room but keeping hidden a magic purple cat that spins through the air and has a rainbow that comes out of it’s head when it’s happy is tricky business and soon enough questions are asked. As per his previous films the result here is a perfect melding of live action for the family and animation for Miu the cat and the performance from Gaspard Tif is as much a revelation as those from the child stars of Baba Yaga and Le Petit Ombré. A fitting end for Illienko’s career with the director achieving three masterpieces with all three of his films.

www.imaginaryfilmguide.com

Twitter: @MadeUpFilms

#44 – Claws of the Damned

(1946, GB, 100 min, b/w) Dir Alberto Cavalcanti. Cast Elisabeth Welch, Miles Malleson, Frederick Valk.

A worthwhile addition to the horror subgenre of killer kitties, Claws of the Damned features Elisabeth Welch in a rare lead role as Rose, the maid hired to work at the decrepit Howe Hall without there seemingly being anyone to serve under save a couple dozen black cats roaming the house. It teeters into rote mystery solving by the end with dread family secrets and all that but what the film has to offer in spades is atmosphere – thick, eerie atmosphere. Those who have seen the film (few and far between they may be) all talk in hushed tones of the scene in Rose’s dark bedroom as she finds herself drifting off to sleep. The camera becomes her eyes, the hazy darkness of her lids opening and closing slower each time. With each blink the room grows darker and with each dial down of the darkness the room, it seems, becomes populated more and more with the black cats of the house. The genius of it is like that of The Innocents where the viewer, like the protagonist, is never quite sure of what it is they’ve seen. Of course she wakes with a jolt and, fumbling with the light, gets the room illuminated to find that the cats aren’t there. Just about finished when Cavalcanti left Ealing under a cloud this didn’t receive the kind of a release that it should have and was reportedly disowned by the director too. A truncated version from a scratchy print is up on YouTube for the curious and uninitiated.

www.imaginaryfilmguide.com

Twitter: @MadeUpFilms

#38 – Velvet Paw, The

(1990, US, 81 min) Dir Art Stevens, Ron Clements.  Cast Kathleen Turner, Burt Reynolds, Freddie Jones.

Originally intended for cinema release in 1984, The Velvet Paw was shelved by Disney for unknown reasons and then, following the disappointing box office of The Black Cauldron, it remained on the shelf, not being released until 1990 and then going straight to video. With all of this The Velvet Paw has been perhaps unjustly forgotten – it’s certainly stands up better than some of it’s pre-Disney Renaissance contemporaries. The titular Velvet Paw is a jewel thief in a 1920’s Paris populated by anthropomorphic animals who is being hunted by the inept Detective Copper (a bloodhound of course, voiced by Jones) and is, in reality, sophisticated high society rag doll Lady Fluffington (the appropriately husky Turner, recorded prior to Jessica Rabbit). Into her life comes streetwise con artist Max (Reynolds) to sweep her off her feet. Will she give away her secret to Max? Is he only in it for the money? The time and the place are well evoked (down to a bear Hemingway and a fox Scott Fitzgerald) with a couple of choice ragtime numbers in the place of the usual treacley Disney tunes. Throw in a couple of exciting jewel heists and a moonlit rooftop chase and you have enough to distract from the muddled pacing of the rest of the film.

www.imaginaryfilmguide.com

Twitter: @MadeUpFilms

#37 – Kitten Dream

(1995, Jap, 72 min) Dir Takashi Ōmori.

In Japan in the eighties there was a TV show called Happy Puppy Kitten which consisted mostly of the fifteen minute adventures of puppies and kittens as they, for example, discovered a new box or frolicked in a garden, all while being narrated by an excessively excited young woman. Happy Puppy Kitten didn’t make it out of the country but Kitten Dream, a feature-length cat only version, did. Basic story: kitten in house, kitten escape from house. Kitten climb in van of milk man, milk man drive away. Kitten get out at sea-side, kitten lost. Kitten must find kitten’s way home. It’s all very cute though the little ones in the screening I attended were mildly traumatised by some of the scenes of lost kittens. I will assure you, to save any distress on your own part, that a happy ending is most definitely had with kitten finding her way home and being thrown a kitten party by her owner. Blessedly the big screen version released over here is without the breathless narration of the excited young Japanese woman but, oddly, she has been replaced with Christopher Plummer who I can’t help but think is being a touch too ironic for the proceedings. Puppy Dream was released the following year.

www.imaginaryfilmguide.com

Twitter: @MadeUpFilms