This week one of the best written films of the year, Listen Up Philip, is out. And along with Jason Schwartzman, Elizabeth Moss, Krysten Ritter, and Johnathan Pryce, the movie stars…a cat (actually there are two). Cat’s are notoriously hard work with in movies because they can’t really be trained…they do what they want, when they want to. But despite that, there have been some significant feline characters who rival Lassie and Benji.
Loner Holly Golightly’s has two true loves…he brother and her cat. Her little brother is the boy she protects and mothers, but cat is the only living creature she truly identifies with. Cat is her mirror image and in the New York apartment they live in, Holly and cat are more like co-dependent roommates pet and owner. When life gets too real for Holly, she throws that one last true relationship away in the saddest moment in the film insisting she doesn’t want to be owned or depended on by anyone or anything. And her great moment of redemption isn’t when she gives into the boy (let’s be honest, the guy was kind of a loser), but when she goes searching for the cat she actually did love in the rain.
A pivotal scene in the Oscar-winning film by Francois Truffaut about the struggles to make a movie focuses on a scene in the movie-inside-a-movie held up when a stunt cat, starved for three days by the trainer, refuses to do a pretty basic stunt: go to a bowl of milk and drink it up. The cat refuses, no matter how many times she’s thrown in the direction of the plate, distracting the cast and annoying the director (played by Truffaut). His assistant (Nathalie Baye) comes to the rescue with the studio cat, creating a magical moment which would otherwise seem like a serendipitous moment captured by chance.
King of cool Philip Marlowe (Elliott Gould) really loves his cat. He loves it so much, director Robert Altman was willing to spend 10 minutes of a movie showing his character buying cat food (the cat only eats one brand). No matter what, as the store clerk jokes, he might not have a girlfriend, but he’ll always love his cat. And it only helps that he happens to have one of the most charismatic cats in movies, from Marlowe’s pathetic attempt to feed it cottage cheese to the way Marlowe allows it to perch on his shoulder like a bird (you know that cat was digging it’s claws into Gould’s shoulders).
Technically, Jonesy is responsible for Ripley’s ordeal and Brett’s sad fate on the spaceship. But what cat wouldn’t be scared of the presence of an alien that rips through a person’s chest (can’t chase them away). And Ripley loves her cat (watch their reunion at the beginning of Aliens) and up until the point when terrible extraterrestrial stuff starts happening, Jonesy served a real purpose on the ship; chilling the crew out and mousing. The bigger question is why a spaceship had such a serious mouse problem it needed a cat on the premises.
Being that the cat’s name is technically a spoiler, we can’t mention it. But from the minute Oscar Isaacs‘s Llewyn picks up that animal as it escapes the apartment of the loving, eccentric couple whose house he crashes at, the journey begins. As the theory suggests, and I agree, the cats he spends this time with are the representation of the souls of Llewyn and his former partner. Which makes what Llewyn ultimately does to one of these well-behaved cats so devastating; perhaps the worse thing he does in the entire movie. And why his last moments with the cat are so powerful and suggests even he could be redeemed.