Portugal / 1995
This little gem is an atmospheric Latin visualization of a feline love poem. Rendered in stark black and white the visuals start with line drawings of cat prowling over a wonderfully uneven poetic visualization of Porto, the monotone constantly shifting between black cat against white sky and white cat against black sea, until we aren’t sure if the cat is white or black and what’s a dream and what’s real. Leaping from rooftops, gazing upwards, sailing around the sky in a boat, the pursuit goes on far into the blackness of night.
As director Pedro Serrazina himself describes it:
A poem. A tale made of silence and complicity. Light and shadows, the charm of the night, the moon as a passion… This is a tale about someone who tried to make the dream come true. This is the tale about the cat and the moon.
The environmental atmospherics of this film was for Serrazina the beginning of a career investigating his area of interest, “animated space”. Born in Lisbon, he grew up fascinated by animation and comics (he names the black and white designs of Pratt’s Corto Maltese as a main reference here).
Moving to Porto to study architecture Serrazina discovered that he was more in love with drawing non-rigorous spaces and small comics than following the structural necessities demanded by his course and so left to start work at a small animation studio , where his early study of drawing spaces rather than characters would become crucial to his approach to animation and film making.
Estória do Gato e da Lua (Tale About the Cat and the Moon)‘s opening “dive” into the city was the first animated sequence Serrazina ever attempted. Totally hand-drawn (remember computers were unavailable at this time), his work on this film and his background in architecture led to his career-long exploration of the aforementioned “animated space”, which he defines as “the ways a film can be told or constructed ‘spatially’, without being character-centered and without the customary reliance on the cause-effect chain”.
After completing Tale About the Cat and the Moon, Serrazina moved to the UK to study at the Royal College of Art where he made his film Within concerning “a house, full of memories; in which the characters are ‘spacially-coded’ into the narrative”.
Serrazina then became course leader at Maidstone College, before moving back to Lisbon where he is now Assistant Professor at Universidade Lusofona, completing a practice-based PhD on the creation and use of Animated Space as narrative tool. Serrazina has created installations in Tunisia and in Portugal, as part of his further exploration of his subject area and has written essays on the subject, which he presented at the Society for Animation Studies (SAS), one of which you can read here.”
Tale About the Cat and the Moon could be about many aspects of the human condition, ambition, love, desire, and like many of the best short films is a poem open to personal interpretation. As well as its obvious aesthetic values It does capture well the feeling of someone obsessively chasing a dream, with the cat always yearning for the moon, that logically it can never have, apart from the possibility of some piece of magic happening, which is what sometimes happens when you keep of wishing and trying, the only way to realize many dreams.
The feline subject, the town, the sea and music by Tentugal create the languid and liquid ambience of a cat who’s got the cream and like all the best and most original creations, twenty years on this cream tastes as fresh as when it was made.
Note: The 100 greatest animated shorts is a list of opinions and not an order of value from best to worst. Click here to see all of the picks of the list so far. All suggestions, comments and outrage are welcome!