The Black Cat
A black cat and a mysterious woman by the name of Miss Bellows show up at Mr. Bond's quaint cottage after he brings home an old broomstick from an antique shop.
An old man (and published author) by the name of Mr. Bond (Tom Alter) is out antique shopping in Jaffer’s (Uday Chandra) eclectic store full of unique prizes. Mr. Bond finds an old broom, and haggles a bit before forking over the money and taking it home. Once there, it becomes clear that Mr. Bond is a lifelong collector. But once the broom is set aside in a corner of his vast collection, a pesky black cat shows up – quickly winning Mr. Bond’s heart. Not long after, Mr. Bond’s neighbor – Ms. Bellows (Shernaz Patel) comes looking for her pet cat – and you’ll have to watch the film to know the rest.
There’s a lovely Tim Burton quality to everything going on in The Black Cat. Visually, and with the lavish score from Advait Nemlekar adding to the overall magical feel of the film, you’ll call out Burton classics like Sleepy Hollow.
Performances from the two leads are perfectly-suited to the tone of the film. As Mr. Bond, you’ll giggle at Tom Alter’s charming, but crotchety performance – marveling particularly at his hissing delivery of the word “cat”.
As Ms. Bellows, Shernaz Patel is appropriately mysterious and strange as the enigmatic Ms. Bellows. She’s better in her more confined role during her initial introduction – moreso than in her character’s final reveal.
Despite all the lovely whimsy created by the film – it’s not all sunshine and lollipops (or in this case, moonlight and broomsticks). The film outstays its welcome in the last sequence. It could have ended perfectly as we see Ms. Bellows departing Mr. Bond’s home – and the subsequent revelation of why she made this visit to Mr. Bond. The final scene is chock-full of lovely set details (as we tour Ms. Bellows’ home), but it’s wholly unnecessary and feels very tacked-on.
There are some fun visual effects throughout (notably Ms. Bellows’ “special drink” and the reveal of her home, once she returns home – via a special mode of transportation).
The production design – including Mr. Bond’s extensive collection – is very striking, very detailed and adds so much to the fantastical feel of the film. This universe feels very other-worldly and timeless.
There’s not much as far as an actual story in the film. It’s a couple of fun characters, a mischievous black cat and lots of fun visuals, but I wanted to get some additional explanation for what happens here. How did the broom get to the antique shop? Why does Mr. Bond seem so excited to meet Ms. Bellows – and why is this the first time meeting her, but he knows her name, and apparently her reputation?
The Black Cat is a non-threatening, family-friendly, whimsical short film which is 20 minutes well spent, in a kooky and fun Tim Burton-esque world.
It held its US premiere at this year’s Filmquest Film Festival in Provo, Utah, where it was nominated for Best Fantasy Short Film.
The Black Cat is still playing the festival circuit, so keep you eyes (eye of newt?) open for any potential screenings at your local genre festivals.
UPDATE: Director Saikia informed me that his lead actor, Tom Alter, passed away on September 29th, 2017 — just a few days before I posted this review. May he RIP.