Thursday 28 September 2017

Catherine / Ivan Tsarevitch (B. Raes / M. Ocelot, 2017/16)


Catherine, a charming Belgian short, sees the title character rapidly work her way through a series of childhood pets, all of which are claimed via unfortunate accidents.  One day Kitty arrives, and this pretty feline is clever enough to account for Catherine's carelessness, with the two enjoying a strong bond which continues as the girl turns into a woman.  Thrown into the mix is Dwight, the shy and awkward boy (later man) across the street, who seems to have a knack of popping up whenever one of Catherine's pets dies.  It's clear that Dwight has feelings for Catherine, but he doesn't especially register with her as she can't really see past the cat she dotes on.

With a warm, appealing animation style and great use of colour, Britt Raes' film makes for a delightful twelve minutes of entertainment; it's by no means without humour, but is ultimately a very poignant tale which carries a universal message about the time that remains.  The film manages to be both tough and tender, and very young children may find it to be a bit upsetting in places - having said that, the bittersweet power of Catherine is likely to move children and adults alike.  You don't have to be a cat lover to enjoy this film, although being one might help.

Catherine screens at the London Film Festival on the 7th and 8th of October.  On the earlier of those dates, it plays with Michel Ocelot's Ivan Tsarevitch and the Changing Princess.  Ocelot is a legend in the world of animation due to works such as his Kirikou movies, and this film sees him working in silhouette mode à la Tales of the Night.

Just as with Tales of the Night, Ivan Tsarevitch is an anthology film, and while it's half an hour and two stories shorter than Tales, the standard is just as high.  The stark, beautiful animation helps bring a quartet of children's stories to life, and, as is the case with all the best fairytales, there's a lurking menace present in each segment that will delight both younger viewers and accompanying adults.

Ocelot's films always come as a breath of fresh air in a crowded children's market where the emphasis is all too often on the formulaic.  Ivan Tsarevitch and the Changing Princess was released in French cinemas last year, and is available on DVD as part of a nice double pack which also includes Tales of the Night.

Darren Arnold