Saturday, November 12, 2011

Timeless: Feed the Kitty (1952)

Watch "Feed the Kitty"
While the feature film still is the padrino of cinema, Warner Bros, Disney and countless independent directors have more than one time proved that there's not much you need to make an ingenious film with everything in it. Like FEED THE KITTY. With a duration of 7 minutes and 23 seconds, this film outlines some of manhoods most discussed and thought-about issues and eternal questions. 

I don't remember when I saw FEED THE KITTY for the first time - surely, my brain wasn't full-grown yet - but I remember the last time I watched it, after a long time. And it struck me, the brilliancy of this film struck me like a lightning. It is honest, understandable and entertaining for persons of any age and a wonderful reflexion of our society - today, more than 50 years after it was made. My parents have seen this film when they were children, and so do the children I babysit. 
But what exactly is this "everything", the film reflects on and includes, and what makes it so timeless? A few suggestions.

Society and Prejudice
At the start of the film, the dog Marc Anthony walks around startling everything that comes in his way, including the little kitten Pussyfoot. He expects it to be scared of him, but no - it isn't. Marc Anthony starts reflecting: Why is he doing this? The cat isn't scared, so maybe he's not what he seems to be either? Did he terrify animals and people because he thought nobody liked him? 
You know this type, we all know him (or her, for that matter). Of course, life's not a Warner Bros Merry Melody, and the Marc Anthony of our world might rape the cat or strangle it or something. But you can apply this to various other types and situations than just the pure Marc Anthony/ bad guy. It might be someone in your class, or at work. Actually sometimes, we can all be a Marc Anthony... I can, if I don't like people, or think I don't like them. I'm often right about it, but sometimes a little Pussyfoot comes along, and I realize I was being unfair. Snobby, that is. Don't bark at the people who have a "bad taste of films" (= smaller people), at least give them a chance. 
I did - I thought that serious films are pretentious and snobby, without ever seeing one of those (well yes, I did watch serious films, but more the mainstream kind of). Parallel Cinema? Worse. And now I'm not any better - I'm extremely prejudiced against the people who don't like subtitles, who think many films I like are pretentious and snobby... the people who remind me of an old version of myself.
Give it a go - don't be a Marc Anthony. And, for that matter, don't be a Pussyfoot all the time, either. 

The worst fear of all kinds of animals, death is the fundament for all of our basic instincts. We eat, drink (water), sleep and don't-kill-ourselves, because we want to survive, we don't want to die - we're afraid of death. I believe that the fear is worst when you're in your middle-ages, because as a young person you don't think you could die every moment - you don't want to die, but you don't think about it. You don't know what it means. As an old person, you've had many years of thinking about and finally accepting the fact that nothing ever lasts. 

But there's something worse than dying, and that is the fear of being left alone - the fear that your beloved ones die. Because what is life without them - nothing. This is why we are afraid of getting old, even as teenagers. FEED THE KITTY, too, takes up that subject; Marc Anthony now has a friend, and his whole life has changed - he can't go back to where he was at the beginning. But just when he has found that friend, life seems to be wanting to take her back again. 

Despairingly, Marc Anthony tries what he can to prevent this from happening, even if it includes piquing his mistress, but in the end there's nothing he can do. We all know what has really happened, and therefore, the following scene is more amusing than sorrowful...

It's a children's cartoon, after all. But the matter is clear-cut, and it is a serious, eternal matter.

Coming of Age
More of a side matter in this film, one might think, but I believe that coming of age is an important part of it. Why else would it be called "Feed the Kitty", a direct link to the last scene of the film, in which the mistress tells Marc Anthony: "You can keep that dear little kitten, if you want to. But remember: you've got to take care of it (...)". Coming of age is about taking responsibility for your life (symbolized by Pussyfoot in the film), making your own decisions that you have to stand up for. Belgian singer-songwriter Jonathan Vandenbroeck, known as Milow, wrote that "If each shot of happy/ Comes with only two shots of sad/ Then coming of age is not so bad" in one of my favorite songs, and in my opinion, these three lines might be the eternal truth about coming of age. That's what it is: ironic, happy and sad at the same time. Like this cartoon. 

Friendship has always been a mystical thing for humans - (almost) everyone has at least one true friend, but what is it that make us be friends with someone? How does friendship work, are there rules for how to make friends, and with whom? Psychologists, philosophers, the boy and girl next door - everyone has wondered about this one time or another. 

If two people meet, and seem to like each other, there's mostly one person who takes the first step, an initiator. In the case of Marc Anthony and Pussyfoot, the latter initiates the friendship in a very childish, naive way, expecting anyone to be as nice to her as she is to others. Children don't have the restrictions adults have, they just go up to someone and ask "Shall we be friends?". Many adults admire this, wishing life could be as easy as back in kindergarten. And the makers of FEED THE KITTY agree with that - there's also a connection to the first section here. 
Now, even though Pussyfoot is the initiator of the friendship, Marc Anthony is the one who keeps it going and ends up caring so much for his new friend, that he would do anything for her, and couldn't live without her. 
Marc Anthony and Pussyfoot are very different from each other, but they're friends, and that's their strength. They exchange love and protection - almost as if friendship was a countertrade. Indeed, that is part of a friendship, but not everything. 

Friendship is what we see in the very last picture: shelter and warmth.

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