Cat's Cradle

Stan Brakhage created Cat's Cradle in 1959. The 19th film by Brakhage is a montage of two couples, a cat, and the inside of a house. There are many techniques that make up the film such as pacing, abstraction, distortion, use of color, and repetition. The four people that were documented in Cat's Cradle are Brakhage's friends James Tenney, Carolee Schneemann, his ex-wife Jane, and Brakhage himself. The shots of them and the cat are so short and quickly cut that it's hard to focus, and even hard to see who was who in the film. Upon first viewing, I though it was only Brakhage and his wife in the film, but was wrong. The blending of images makes it appear there are only a man and a woman, along with their cat in the film. It seems as if the film is shown through the perspective of the black cat, and it might even seem that the cat has some kind of control or influence over the people. The warm colors used in the film give off a sense of heat and tension. Within the first minute or two of the film one might feel a little uncomfortable because of the color palette used, but once accustomed to the colors the viewer may be intrigued with what the man and woman are feeling and what influence the cat might have on them. The warmth of the colors also brings a sense of lust and sexual tension to the piece. It's also hard not to mention the lighting used in the film. The light gives the viewer a sense of being stuck inside the house, by showing us the sunlight from outside. It may represent how the cat and the woman are always inside the house. From the quick glimpses of the objects in the room and the following of the actions of the man and women in the room, there are many camera angles and shots that show the film is being shown through the viewpoint of the black cat. The fast pace of the cuts also mimic how a cat might see the world in front of its eyes. The film definitely feels sexual in nature; you grow attracted to it and almost can't take your eyes away. The cat watches the people when they are by themselves and also when they are having sex. This makes the viewer feel as if they are participating in voyeurism along with the cat. But what's very intriguing is how the cat seems like it has some power over the four, having them engage in sexual activity. Black cats can sometimes be associated with witchcraft, being that in the middle ages Black cats where thought to be reincarnated witches or possessed by them. So with this in mind it can very well be that the cat is casting some kind of spell on the two couples.

--Richard Oswald, 2003

Stan Brakhage