"Feed the Kitty, Please."

An article about Cameo Cinema that was originally printed in the Fall 2007 Modern Fuel Newsletter.
Drawing by Wendy Huot. Text by Michael Davidge.

An on-going series of film screenings initiated and organized by Wendy Huot, Cameo Cinema places an emphasis on the individual's intimate relationship with the movies and provides the movie buff with the opportunity of making a personal appearance in the films he or she loves. For each screening, a different person is invited to select and present a program of short films or features, introducing each with the reasons for their selection or their significance. To date, there have been five screenings, with more to come. Huot started the series off with a program she put together that featured two shorts, "A Chairy Tale"(1957), a stop-motion animation that was a collaboration between Norman McLaren, Evelyn Lambart and Claude Jutra; "Feed the Kitty"(1952), a Warner Bros. cartoon directed by Chuck Jones; and the feature film "Together"(2000), directed by Lukas Moodysson. Introducing her program, Huot described how she selected the films according to the theme of togetherness: though each film frankly depicted the difficulties that arise in communal situations, even in spite of good intentions, she noted, the conflict both afforded and surmounted by communication and togetherness in the films proved preferable to isolation. Extending the discussion of the themes of the films to the communal experience of watching a movie provided by Cameo Cinema, and cinemas in general, Huot exercised a philosophy of film that could be described as far more Aristotelian than Platonic: rather than seeing a film as a series of shadows projected on the wall by others who control the images, one should recognize the nature of the social animal gathering to observe such a projection and provide a forum for the discussion of the merits of this pursuit.

The first night of Cameo Cinema certainly met its goal of providing a forum for reflection and discussion about film, however, a technical glitch resulted in the inability to play "Feed the Kitty" with sound. Huot, without missing a beat, quoted Chuck Jones, who claimed that the mark of excellent achievement in animation was the ability to tell a story simply through the expressiveness of the drawings. She suggested we test the film to see if it stood up to that standard. In the film, a bulldog named Marc Antony tries to bring home a kitten with which he is smitten. Because his mistress has scolded him for bringing too many things back home and cluttering up the house, the bulldog attempts to keep the kitten a secret. Because she is unaware of its existence, the mistress unknowingly prepares (as a result of a misadventure) to blend the kitten into cookie batter with a household appliance. The bulldog's attempts to stop his mistress get him exiled from the house. Outside, he can only look on with horror through a window at the events in the kitchen. Ex-communicated, Marc Antony, once a part of the household, can now, in abjection, only collapse wretchedly into a pool of his own tears as his loved one is undoubtedly doomed. Thankfully, all is not as it seems, and the dog is brought back into the fold in time for a happy ending. The appreciative response from the crowd, watching "Feed the Kitty" as a silent film, indicated that Chuck Jones and his team had hit their mark. Though the "Merrie Melodies" are known for their superb voice characterizations and the excellent musical pastiches of Carl Stalling, screening this one without sound actually served to highlight some of the key themes of Huot's presentation. Marc Antony's plight, provoking both laugher and tears, can be read allegorically in order to draw out the political dimension of the cartoon and of Huot's screenings too. Silenced by his ex-communication, Marc Antony is reduced to a form of life that, though an exception to the rule of law, is becoming quite common. As Walter Benjamin has written, "The sadness of nature makes her mute." A way of life that would pursue happiness would naturally include participation in the public sphere and sense of involvement in the issue of events.