We can learn a lot about a man from the way that he treats a cat.
It’s rare to see a cat featured prominently in film or television. Think about it. If you can name any, they will probably be animated cats, like Felix, Sylvester, or Garfield. Animated cats are definitely easier to train than actual cats. So to see a cat on the big screen is a treat.
The Coen brothers’ latest film “Inside Llewyn Davis” features an orange tabby cat in the role of Ulysses. The camera follows Ulysses as he saunters down long hallways, rides the subway, and jumps out a window and down a fire escape. The cat is gorgeous and moves with typical feline grace. One marvels that the directors and trainers managed to coax such terrific performances out of a cat.
As it turns out, there were several feline actors involved in making the film. The directors described their process in an interview with Terry Gross on NPR’s “Fresh Air”:
“What you have to do is basically find the cat that's predisposed to doing whatever particular piece of action it is that you have to film. So you find the cat that can - isn't afraid to run down a fire escape or this, you know, the cat that's very docile and will let the actor just hold them for extended periods of time without being fidgety. And then you want the fidgety cat - the squirrely cat - for when you want the cat to run away and you just keep swapping them out - depending on what the task at hand is.”
So that’s the secret to making a cat movie.
The secret to watching a cat movie – this cat movie – is to remind yourself constantly that it isn’t real. No animals were harmed in the making of this film. If you can’t do that, then you may feel anxious through half of the movie. I don’t want to give anything away, but a cat rides a subway; that should be enough to make you worry.
Many movie reviewers have written about this cat as a symbol or allegory. I won’t do that. To me Ulysses is a character in the movie like any other. Indeed, the cat has more scenes with the main character (Llewyn Davis, an aspiring folk musician played by Isaac Oscar) than any other character. We can learn a lot about a man from the way that he treats a cat. I don’t want to spoil the movie for anyone who plans to see it, so I will leave it there.
The film was nominated for a Golden Globe in the category Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy. It’s worth seeing for the the cat alone.