Cinderella The Cat


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Cinderella The Cat
"Some of the animation here is beautiful, especially when we're in watery spaces with things floating around."

Although the version of Cinderella best known to cinema audiences is that first attributed, in literary form, to French author Charles Perrault (and later picked up by the Brothers Grimm), many older variants exist. Cinderella The Cat is an Italian animation which draws on Giambattista Basile's 1634 version, Cenerentola - actually the first to be written down - and blends it with a futuristic vision of that author's beloved Naples. Here our heroine - known as Mia - is the daughter of a visionary builder who created an enormous ship within which most of the action takes place. Due to his betrayal and murder, she grows up as little more than a servant to her wicked stepmother, with no fewer than five stepsisters and a cross-dressing stepbrother to keep her under the heel. Although this may sound bad enough, worse is to come when she reaches adulthood and catches the eye of her mother's lover, the mafia don who rules the ship and is known simply as The King.

The King is also a showman and many key scenes take place onstage, as he loves to sing and boast of his successes in front of the sycophants who make up the ship's ruling class. Being Italian, much of the dialogue in the film is delivered so fast that it's a challenge to read the subtitles in time, especially if you're trying to take in visual details as well, so the songs, though unremarkable musically, come as something of a relief. There's a great deal happening all the way through and at two hours long the film still feels crowded. Elements of The Little Mermaid are also to be found her: Mia is really more of a fish than a cat, at ease in the water and confident enough to help others to find themselves in trouble there. She's also mute, which enhances the risks she faces in light of her value as her father's one true heir.

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Films of this sort face a particular difficulty in the modern age. To keep faith with traditional narratives, they need their heroines to be wide-eyed and meek; yet to satisfy viewers, they need them to take some control over their lives. Cinderella The Cat solves this problem by having Mia only gradually discover her potential for action as she uncovers the truth about her father's fate, and having men around to rescue her when things get too much. The stepmother, however, gets to be a more complex character than usual and her tragedy adds Shakespearian depth to an otherwise messy ending.

Some of the animation here is beautiful, especially when we're in watery spaces with things floating around. Everything is in a state of decay, emphasising the themes of corruption and neglect. The ship is a hotbed of consumerism, even Mia briefly seduced by the allure of fine dresses and shoes, but ghosts stalk its corridors, holographic projections from another age, and it's impossible to get away from the fact that something ha gone very wrong. Whilst the older characters might well be able to sustain their comforts and illusions for a lifetime, Mia is part of a generation for which it is imperative to find something new.

Despite its themes, there's nothing in this film that's unsuitable for children, though it might be a bit much for them to watch all at once. Screening at Fantasia 2018, it has demonstrated that it can appeal to viewers across national borders, and it will be of particular interest to those intrigued by the origins and complexities of the Cinderella tale.

Reviewed on: 28 Jul 2018
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The daughter of a brilliant builder betrayed by those close to him finds herself in deadly danger as she reaches the brink of adolescence under the watching eyes of her cruel stepmother and the local mafia.

Director: Alessandro Rak, Ivan Cappiello, Marino Guarnieri, Dario Sansone

Writer: Ivan Cappiello, Marianna Garofalo, Marino Guarnieri, Corrado Morra, Alessandro Rak, Dario Sansone, Italo Scialdone

Starring: Ivan Cappiello, Dario Sansone, Marino Guarnieri, Alessandro Rak, Marianna Garofalo, Italo Scialdone

Year: 2016

Runtime: 86 minutes

Country: Italy


Fantasia 2018

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