Our Caturday Movie of the week is Až přijde kocour (1963), a Czechoslovakian movie also known as The Cat Who Wore Sunglasses, The Cassandra Cat, That Cat, and When the Cat Comes. It's directed by Vojtěch Jasný and won the CST and Special Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 1963.
The Cat Who Wore Sunglasses takes place in a small Czechoslovakian town in the early 1960s. In the first half hour of the film, we get to know the inhabitants and their quirks. Turns out most of them are cheaters, liars and opportunists. One day, Castellan Oliva (Jan Werich) tells the pupils of a local school that he once fell in love with a beautiful woman named Diana. She worked for a circus and had a cat who constantly wore sunglasses. Oliva knew it was forbidden to take them off, but that's what he did anyway. Instantly, everyone around him changed color. The liars became violet, the thieves grey, and the unfaithful yellow. Those that were in love turned red. Now that the true nature of each inhabitant was exposed, the village was no longer peaceful. In order to restore tranquility, the villagers went after the cat and killed it.
A little later, jolly music sounds from the square, heralding the arrival of a strange circus. Everyone runs outside to see a red car entering the village. On it sits a magician who looks like Oliva and a beautiful woman (Emília Vásáryová) with a sunglasses-wearing cat on her lap. Apart from the sunglasses, he looks like a regular cat. He even makes friends with Chicha, the cat of a young teacher.
That evening, they give a strange performance, which include acrobatics and moving clothes. When the cat with sunglasses arrives on stage, marching on a rolling ball, he jumps on Diana's lap. She takes off the cat's sunglasses and, once more, people in the room start dancing while turning red, yellow, grey and violet. Those that are red fall into each other's arms, the others try to hide.
When the show is over, Moerek the cat has disappeared and Diana begs to find him, promising a reward to those who bring him back to her. A young boy finds him in the fields, and when he and the cat enter the village, everyone changes color again. The children adore their magic cat, but the adults feel threatened. Just like in the past, they concoct a plan to steal and kill it. One of them runs off with the tom-cat after having put a bonnet over its head so he won't be able to see, but the children will do anything to save their kitty. Luckily, they get help from their teacher Robert (Vlastimil Brodský), who has now fallen in love with Diana. When Diana comes back to claim her cat, Robert runs after her but he isn't fast enough and Diana leaves the village forever.
The Cat Who Wore Sunglasses, which is part of the Czechoslovakian New Wave, is unlike any movie you've seen before, especially when it comes to the circus performances and the dance scenes in Orwocolour (the Eastern European Agfacolour). The film has aged tremendously but this only ads to its charm. The way both the village and its inhabitants are portrayed take you back into time. Of course, there's also Moerek, the cat with the sunglasses, who not only looks irresistibly cute with his glasses but is also capable of jumping, running around and performing tricks without ever losing them. This is the perfect matinee film for both cat lovers and fans of old cinema. However, the movie is hard to find. Though it exists on DVD, it's not always available, so when you have the chance to see or purchase it, it's better not to give it second thoughts.
The Cat Who Wore Sunglasses was one of the most popular movies of this year's Offscreen film festival. The festival still runs till March 26th. You can check out their program here.