Film / News

Pussy Galore!

By robin askew, Tuesday Aug 8, 2017

Following its summer aestivation, the Cube bounces back into action in September with a short season of films celebrating members of the feline community. Programmed under the Catnip banner as part of Scalarama 2017 in the wake of the success of Turkish charmer Kedi, it’s an eclectic selection ranging from animation to fantasy and quirky comedy. So put Tiddles down for a moment and read on for the full line-up.

When the Cat Comes

Sept 3

A magician and his bespectacled cat arrive in a small Czech village as part of a travelling circus. When the furry beast’s specs are removed, it can paint people, quite literally, in their true colours. So cheats appear grey, adulterers yellow, and so on. Released under a number of titles (Az Prijde Kocour, The Cassandra Cat, etc) but rarely screened today, this jolly Czech fantasy bagged the Special Jury Prize at Cannes back in 1963. The Soviets, however, were not so pleased at its thinly-veiled critique of totalitarianism and promptly banned the film after their 1968 invasion.

Morgiana

Sept 3

Czech actress Iva Janžurová takes both lead roles as twin sisters Klára and Viktoria in this 1972 gothic horror/fantasy fairytale based on a short story by Aleksandr Grin (the ‘Russian Poe’, if you will), set in the late 19th century. Klára is the beautiful one, while Viktoria is hideous and filled with hate. Eventually the latter’s jealousy leads her to poison her sibling. To add to the fun, much of the Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?-style romping is viewed through the eyes of Viktoria’s only chum – her cat, Morgiana.

The Cat Returns

Sept 17

One of the few early Studio Ghibli films not directed by Hayao Miyazaki, 2002’s The Cat Returns received a belated UK cinema release back in 2005 following the international success of Spirited Away. It’s a lovingly hand-drawn if relatively straightforward, kid-oriented fantasy that lacks the inventive edge of Spirited Away, but remains a treat for those who’ve tired of shrill and annoying mainstream animation.

When clumsy schoolgirl Haru (Chizuru Ikewaki) snatches a cat from the path of an oncoming lorry, the feline stands up on his hind legs, bows politely, explains that he’s in a hurry, and dashes off. Suitably gobsmacked, Haru gets a bigger surprise when she’s awoken in the middle of the night by a huge procession of upright moggies. They stop outside her house, where the long-haired King of the Cats (Tetsuro Tamba) thanks her for saving his son, Prince Lune (Takayuki Yamada), and promises a reward. The next day, she finds her pockets full of catnip and her school locker bulging with gift-wrapped mice. As these are rather inappropriate gifts for a human, the King pledges to bestow his greatest honour by marrying her off to Lune, raising the alarming prospect of cartoon bestiality. A mysterious voice then guides suitably shocked Haru to a greedy, corpulent comedy cat named Muta (Tetsu Watanabe, veteran star of Takeshi Kitano and Akira Kurosawa flicks) and thence the suave swordsfeline Baron Humbert von Gikkingen (Yoshihiko Hakamada).

The film’s obvious influences range from Alice in Wonderland to Puss in Boots and Zorro, but it never comes off as pastiche and avoids both the simplistic good guy/bad guy delineation of traditional cartoons and the grotesque family values propaganda of Disney (Haru appears to be raised by a single mother). There’s also plenty of delightful incidental funny business. Watch out for the golf-playing King’s revolving eyes and his black-and-white secret service cats. Parents may wish to note that the Cube is screening the Japanese version of the film with English subtitles

Rent-a-Cat

Sept 17

Thirtysomething Sayoko (Mikako Ichikawa) is something of a cat magnet. Before long, her home is full of the critters. So she hits on the idea of renting them out to lonely folks whose lives could be improved by feline company. But – guess what? – Sayoko herself is lonelier than any of them, because she struggles to make human contact. Renting out cats might not be a terribly good idea in practice, but it makes for a suitably quirky comedy. And there’s no doubting director Naoko Ogigami‘s enthusiasm for the furballs, as she includes a cat in at least one scene in every film she’s made.

Tickets for all screenings are on sale now via the Cube’s website.

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