I‘m pretty easy to please when it comes to animation, probably because most of the movies that play St. Louis (and hence most of the movies I review, and most of the current releases that I see, period) are live action, while animated features are much less common. A change is as good as a holiday, as the saying goes, and a fairly ordinary animated film may seem more interesting than a live action film of similar quality just because I haven’t seen as many repetitions of the conventions of animation.
That’s the opposite of most people’s attitude toward animated features, at least for adult movies—they pay no attention to animated film except for those rare exceptions that “transcend the genre,” as the saying goes—in other words, animated films that are much better than the average run of films in general. It’s sort of like my interest in soccer (football to the rest of the world): I follow the World Cup and the U.S. Women’s National Team, but beyond that, I don’t really care.
To get back to the matter at hand, even when graded on a curve, Cinderella the Cat, now playing at Fantasia 2018, is disappointing. The story is not easy to follow, and that confusion begins with the misleading title: there’s not more than a few references to the story of the neglected daughter and her glass slipper, and those feel tacked on rather than organic. The only “cat” that figures in the story is the Cinderella figure herself—it’s what the mean characters call her—and that doesn’t feel particularly organic either.
In a sort of prequel, we meet the child Mia (the Cinderella character) and her father Vittorio (voiced by Mariano Rigillo), who has invented a technology similar to holograms and created a ship-based scientific facility that he hopes will revive Naples. He’s engaged to the voluptuous Angelica (Maria Pia Calzone), apparently not realizing that she is also keeping company with the mobster Salvatore (Massimiliano Gallo).
When Vittorio is murdered on his wedding day, Mia’s lot becomes that of an unwanted child subject to the cruel whims of her stepmother Angelica. While Angelica’s other children, including her transvestite son, are trained to be cabaret singers, Mia is treated as a servant. Meanwhile, Salvatore develops a scheme to smuggle cocaine in shoes, and the ship on which everyone lives falls further and further into decay. As Mia approaches her 18thbirthday, Salvatore pretends to be kind to her, but clearly he has some evil up his sleeve. Fortunately for Mia, she has attracted the attention of a Prince Charming of sorts in the form of the policeman Primo (Alessandro Gassman). Good and evil must battle it out, but you may well give up on this film before that point, because it’s not all that rewarding to watch.
Cinderella the Cat offers some interesting visuals, mainly in the presentation of the decaying ship, although the directors (Ivan Cappiello, Marino Guarnieri, Alessandro Rak, and Dario Sansone) are so fond of having things float through the air that scenes sometimes seem to be taking place underwater. Holograms pop up at regular intervals to provide backstory, since everyone lives on the ship where Vittorio did his inventing. The character designs are highly stylized, with an odd fondness for cheekbones you could cut glass with, even for the heroine, and lots of odd camera angles are used, mainly in ways that echo film noir conventions. | Sarah Boslaugh
*I’m not trying to say that animation is a genre—it’s more of a marketing category as well as most obviously a means of production—but given the way films are currently distributed, it might as well be.