At the Cattes Film Festival

The Walker Art Center, a well-regarded modern art museum in Minneapolis, held what is believed to be the first Internet Cat Video Film Festival recently.

The Boston Globe


“Truffaut? Please–he couldn’t change my litter box.”

I’ve come with Rocco–my tuxedo cat and the only one I have left after the recent death of his fractious older brother Okie–to the Cattes Internet Video Film Festival. We have high hopes for what we believe to be the Oak Man’s greatest work–Laser Pointer a la Mode–a moody noir meditation on the futility of love for a long-gelded grey tabby male.


Okie, as he approached Orsonwellesian size.

“What do you think of our chances?” Roc asks. He’s wearing a beret–a French touch that strikes me as an affectation. I have opted for the rough-and-tumble red-blooded Americanski look favored by directors such as John Huston. Huston famously divorced one of his wives when she demanded he choose between her and a pet chimpanzee. I’m not that far gone as a cat-man–not yet at least.


“Anybody seen my monkey?”

“I don’t know,” I say glumly to Rocco. It would be great, a feather in Okie’s cap, if the world of film were to recognize Laser Pointer for what it is–the capstone of a great career–but the competition’s tough. The simplistic videos of cats in t-shirts, cats playing the piano, we’ll blow through those amateurish efforts like shit through a goose. It’s the avant-garde I’m worried about; the long-angle re-tellings of The Cat in the Hat, the shifting points of view to be found in Kibbles ‘n Bits, Mon Amour. There’s a new new wave of young cat film directors out there, NYU, UCLA and ASPCA-trained. These kids are good, whereas Okie, Roc and me, we’re a bunch of old-schoolers stumbling around the house Blair Witch-style with a hand-held camcorder that looks like the VHS equivalent of a room-size Univac computer.


“Je regrettez to tellez-vous, le chat has upchucked on the rug again.”

“You have to admit in terms of visual comedy, we’re right up there with Harold Lloyd and Buster Keaton,” Roc says as he signs the flea collar of a young female admirer.

“Are you staying at the Radisson?” the cute little Persian asks.

“We’re going to be pretty busy meeting with studios,” I say as I steer Roc away from what could be a potential paternity suit if he hadn’t been fixed about the same time I was.

“Hey, I want to have a little fun while I’m in town,” he grumbles to me.

“Your fun days are over, as are mine,” I tell him with a censorious look. “From now on, we’re dedicated to our art–not chicks, okay?”

He doesn’t like it, but he doesn’t have much choice. We’re swept along by the crowd into theatre #3, where Laser Pointer is scheduled to start in two minutes.

“So what if we come out of the festival without a studio deal?” Roc asks with a note of concern in his voice.

“We stay on the festival circuit,” I say. “Sundance, Telluride, maybe even . . . Boston.”

“Why bother?” Roc asks with a withering deprecation of his home town that surprises me. After all, he caught his first mouse there, humped his first couch there.

“You never know,” I say. “We might get a short-run distribution contract. Anything to avoid the stigma of direct-to-DVD.”

That seems to mollify him and, after I get refreshments–Raisinets for me, Liva Snaps for him–we settle into our seats.

We sit through the obligatory safety recitation–no smoking, where the exits are, turn off your cell phones, et cetera–and the lights go down.

“Cross your fingers,” I say, and he looks at me as if I’m daft. “I’ve got six digits per paw and can’t cross any of ’em,” he says and a bit huffily I might add. “Cross your own damn fingers.”


Slo-Poke: Essentialment to l’enjoyment du cinema.

The credits roll and our hope and dreams are launched into that artificial night of le cinema, which has inspired so many dreams, provoked so many nightmares, launched tongues to lick so many Slo-Poke All-Day caramel suckers. I exhale, feeling a sense of relief at the end of a long, difficult process over what we’ve accomplished. The festival received 10,000 cat videos; that’s right, five figures of Americans wasting their time as we have, blocking out shots, dealing with Friskies-fed prima donnas who want to stay in their trailers when the light is just right outside. Now it’s all come down to this; twenty-minutes of what we think was Okie at the very pinnacle of his cinematic powers.


Bergman: “We’ll have to re-shoot the death scene–he woke up from his 6-hour nap.”

I can sense the mood of the crowd as wave upon wave of Okie’s bleak end-of-life vision washes over them. It’s like an Ingmar Bergman movie with a concession-stand size pack of Twizzlers Red Licorice. I hear one woman sobbing down front; false alarm, somebody stepped on her foot trying to get to his seat.

As the lights come up it’s clear we’ve got a winner on our hands. I turn to look at Rocco, and he’s got a sly little smile on his face that says “Hollywood here we come.” I can see him sizing up a kitten on a casting couch in his horny little mind: “I want you to play a scene in which you’re desperately, tragically in love with an eight-year-old tuxedo cat.”

After a hush, the audience begins to applaud, softly, reverently at first, then louder and with an intelligent, critical enthusiasm. “Auteur!” someone yells, and others take up the call. I look at Roc, we shrug our shoulders, then we make our way up the aisle to the stage.

“Thank you, thank you very much,” I say since Rocco is capable only of a caw-like meow. “On behalf of our late colleague Okie, we are pleased that you enjoyed our entry in the Art-House category here at the Cattes Film Festival.”

“Art-House?” a cineaste in an aisle seat says, incredulous. “We thought it was a comedy.”

Available in Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “Cats Say the Darndest Things.”

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