The Black Cat, adapted by filmmaker Bhargav Saikia from a story by Ruskin Bond, is a twenty-minute piece of old-fashioned Halloween candy corn.
Mischievously sweet and narratively austere, it tells the story of the fictional Mr. Bond, a crotchety (though likable) old writer who frequents Jaffer’s Antiques Shop, an establishment that is richly detailed and literally packed to the ceiling with all types of yesteryear goodies and knick-knacks: towers of books, grandfather clocks, faded paintings, handmade flower pots, elegant china, statues of random quality and style, and a homeless kitten that he expresses lighthearted disdain for.
Mr. Bond sees an old wooden broom, “full of character” and uneven, hand-bound lengths of straw. He argues over value, but eventually agrees at the price of fifteen rupees. Paying close attention, one will notice that, among the melodies he is singing to himself as he sweeps his quaint country cottage, ‘Over the Rainbow’ is one of them. One of the many smart little details.
Mysteriously (or perhaps magically) a black cat appears outside his front door and cries for admittance. Nonplussed, but also not cruel, he lets the cat in and provides it with a bowl of milk. But he also makes it crystal-clear that his is not a permanent residence. During a brief montage of adorable household antics, it is instead made crystal-clear that the cat doesn’t intend on going anywhere. The cat also seems to have an odd attraction to the broom, like a spiritual familiarity.
One day, an elegantly-dressed woman, Miss Bellows, comes calling. She is looking for her cat, and Mr. Bond is more than happy to reunite the two. While Mr. Bond searches all around the house for the black cat, Miss Bellows discovers that he not only has her cat, but her broom as well. See where we are? Mr. Bond offers her tea, but she instead requests a glass of hot water, and right in front of him she creates some type of magic brew.
It’s an interesting thing with this short film: we know exactly what’s going on, and who/what she is, yet still we are on the edge of our seats, eager and curious to see what she does next.
Miss Bellows manages to take back her broom and hide it, somewhere, without Mr. Bond noticing. After gulping down her special brew, she leaves, cat in tow. Mr. Bond later notices the broom is missing. With the presence of her cat and the aid of her broomstick, Miss Bellows is once again free to be the person she truly is. There is more, of course, but only for those who watch the movie.
This short has a gentle dark-fairytale atmosphere. During it’s festival tour, it won awards for cinematography and music. Day scenes have a bronze glow, making the sunlight seem almost imaginary, while the nighttime scenes shine with that moonlit black and purple darkness we have all grown to love so much. Elfman-esque music and bells chime with childlike imaginative seduction.
The ending is a true visual delight for those who appreciate the aura of old-school Halloween. It can be watched at any time of the year, though, and is a luscious and macabre treat for eyes and souls that are young at heart. Check out this impressive short for yourself below.