When I saw some of the original images prior to watching CINDERELLA THE CAT, I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I thought this was an anime film. The animation style used by lead animator Ivan Cappiello is very similar to that of classic anime in my opinion. It was a big surprise when I turned on the screener and discovered that this film is VERY Italian. Its original title Gatta Cenerentola is also Italian, so forgive me for this lack of foresight, it’s been a weird week for me. However, the retro-futuristic style of animation is very interesting and evocative of the style of the best anime films I’ve seen.
The film takes place in a not-so-distant-future where big shot scientist/millionaire-with-a-heart-of-gold Vittorio Basile (Mariano Rigillo; Il Postino, To Rome with Love) lives on a massive ship in the port of Naples, his goal to bring about helpful scientific advances to give new life to a poor city that he loves. His ship is equipped with holographic technology that records memories. It also provides some really interesting effects with the animation. Both 2-D and 3-D animations are used to give the holograms the ghostly appearance they are surely intended to have.
At the outset of the film, Vittorio is moments away from marrying a woman whom he deeply loves named Angelica Carannante (Maria Pia Calzone; Equilibrium, Gomorrah), a singer with six children. Vittorio’s only daughter Mia has lost her shoe and is under the care of Primo Gemito (Alessandro Gassman; Transporter 2), one of Vittorio’s bodyguards. Once the shoe is found, a much bigger problem becomes evident to us. Angelica is secretly in love with the sleazy lounge singer Salvatore Lo Guisto (Massimiliano Gallo; For Your Love, The Young Pope) whose name essentially translates to Salvatore the Liar in English. This is a very fitting name for him. He has enacted a plan to kill Vittorio after Angelica and he marry. When Mia reaches her 18th birthday, they will have her sign over her inheritance to them and then Salvatore and Angelica will marry.
We flash forward to the day before Mia is to turn 18. The ship and the port of Naples are in ruins. The ship has been turned into “The Mega Ride” which is essentially a floating brothel. Angelica is a singer and her six children are the other entertainment. Angelica and her five daughters and one gay, cross-dressing son, Luigi, treat Mia like trash. She is now called Cenerentola (Cinderella) and her main job is to clean up after her decidedly wicked stepsiblings when they sleep with and sometimes murder the members of the audience.
Salvatore, who is now referred to as “The King” has big plans to turn the Neapolitan port where the ship is docked into a base of operations for his money laundering. He also now has a very successful footwear business. The shoes, very reminiscent of the classic glass slipper, are actually made of 100% cocaine. He returns to the ship on the day before Mia’s 18th birthday after being gone for many years and soon decides that it is Mia he would like to marry now, instead of Angelica. Primo Gemito, which is a play on the word first-born and the canonical prodigal son, is also returning to rescue Mia from the world of corruption and lies that so badly damaged her, it made her mute.
CINDERELLA THE CAT is a fun re-imagining of a classic fairy tale while also being an allegory for the state of political affairs in modern-day Naples. It is cynical yet hopeful, with beautiful songs and a score that is so beautifully Italian, you might see Marcello Mastroianni’s face instead of yours the next time you look in the mirror. The film certainly doesn’t re-invent the wheel but it’s definitely a must-see for people who love animated films, musicals, and Italian cinema. Directors Alessandro Rak (L’arte della felicita), Ivan Cappiello (Il piccolo Sansereno), Marino Guarnieri (Mezzanotte di Segni), Dario Sansone (L’arte della felicita) and writers (other than the aforementioned directors who also took part in the writing) Corrado Morra, Marianna Garofalo (La parrucchiera), and Italo Scialdone (Il piccolo Sansereno) took a cue from fellow Italian film-maker Pier Palo Pasolini, who with his highly disturbing Salo, took a pre-exisiting piece of classic fiction (The 120 Days of Sodomby the Marquis de Sade) and twisted it into pointing a finger to political corruption taking place in the present day.
CINDERELLA THE CAT has its Canadian premiere at Fantasia Film Festival on July 28th and will play again on the 30th. Its US release is currently TBD.