The Private Life of a Cat (1947) Poster

User Reviews

Review this title
6 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
Whimsical, gentle masterpiece
Jenabel_Regina_del_Mundo18 January 2004
A male cat courts a female cat and they raise a family together. We see the kittens being born and nurtured by mother, while an interested and proud dad lends his support. Beautifully photographed and executed. With subtitles, no dialog, and a refreshing absence of human beings onscreen. Very touchingly realized by Alexander Hammid, whose collaborations with Maya Deren I had prior acquaintance with, and also highly recommend.

Amply demonstrates beyond any shadow of a doubt that animals are more authentic and interesting onscreen than people. I recall W.C Fields' comment to the effect that you should never try to act with children or animals because they will invariably upstage you. You don't have to be a fervent cat lover to find yourself utterly charmed and captivated by this sweet and simple gem of a short film.

For those regular readers of my reviews who have come to expect at least one asinine and/or tacky comment in all my reviews, I won't disappoint. I think kitty porn is outrageous and as upright citizens we must put a stop to this sort of thing immediately! Luckily, there's no kitty porn in this gentle film, just a simple, poignant love story. A film with universal appeal, like a lovely piece of music. Seek it out, and enjoy.
17 out of 19 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Fascinating and true to life
dial911book14 May 2006
The photography in this film is fabulous. It's amazing how they got the cats to "do their thing" unselfconsciously. If you've ever tried to actively film cats, you know that they somehow figure out that you're messing with their minds, and they don't do what you hope for. These cats acted as though they were totally unaware of the camera. That is a feat unto itself! I'd recommend this to any cat lover, any animal lover, and anybody interested in nature.

Great intro to the subject of reproduction for kids. I remember watching this process when I was 10 -- never forget it -- and this is the real thing. Nothing offensive at all.

(Film can be found on-line at the Internet Archive. Apparently it is in the public domain.)
12 out of 15 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
ethylester4 February 2004
This film was so great. I adore cats, it's the only thing in life I can honestly say I've loved every day of my life. This was a beautiful film to watch. I have never seen the birth of kittens in real life and it is so amazing to see what it's like through this film. However, that is not why the film is so great. It is portrayed as if the cats have personalities and are comparable to human relationships and dating/child-raising. We get to see the looks on the mother's face as the she disciplines and feeds her kittens. We get to see the looks on the father's face when he, presumably, sees his kittens for the first time and decides to take part in "fathering". It's beautiful the way the cats react and I love how it was all caught on film and turned into a human-like story. It's a simple idea that can be almost sickeningly charming and adorable if shown to the right kind of person (i.e. cat lovers like myself). It is masterfully captured full cat emotion! Brought tears to my eyes. Well done! 10/10.

Show it to your kids!
14 out of 19 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Where kittens come from
Polaris_DiB23 April 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Alexander Hammid's "Private Life of a Cat" is a both a pretty decent documentary of cats' birth and youth and a warm and tender silent film narration. It shows the courting of two cats, the actual birth of the kittens (and be thankful its silent, because I've seen a cat give birth before and as gross as it looks in this film, it's made all the more uncomfortable by the gross slucking noises and the tiny mews of the kittens), the moment when their eyes start to open, their first attempts at exploration, and, finally, the moment they grow independent and out of control.

Have you ever watched a silent movie or a movie with its sound off and made up the voices and dialog for the characters? This is the perfect type of movie to do that with. If anything, the greatest aspect of this film is the way it anthropomorphizes the personalities of the cats so well that you can understand exactly what they're thinking and doing. Even though the film looks really easy to make and is pretty short, I'd be willing to bet it came from hours of footage taken in order to get the exact facial expression Hammid desired to present the narration in a readable way.

4 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Feline Reproduction in 22 Minutes
Tornado_Sam24 September 2017
With graphic though not overly sickening closeups to show fully how cats give birth, "The Private Life of a Cat" is an interesting little documentary outlining the process of feline reproduction. I first found out about it by the fact that the co-director was the genius avant-garde filmmaker Maya Deren, although because of the lack of surrealist qualities and the fact it's very straightforward in its story it was more the work of her husband Alexander Hammid. Congrats to both as this documentary, while not always thorough in the entire growth cycle, makes the whole film work as a basic outline. And, while technically just a home movie sort of project, the camerawork is quite good as such and shows remarkable skill.

The film begins with the two cats courting each-other briefly, before the mother goes to a box to give birth to the four kittens. The birth is particularly well shot, with detailed closeups and perfect views of how the process occurs. The father then comes into the room a moment later and inspects their newborns, before we go ahead two weeks and see how the kittens have grown and are learning to play.

What made this film so interesting was the fact that I've never seen a cat actually having birth, and this film depicts it in an admittedly graphic but very beautiful way. As stated above, it's really only an outline of how kittens are born and develop, but it didn't need to be any longer and nowadays we have all the technology we want to be able to capture hours of footage showing the complete thing. Worth seeing for any cat lover.
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Some great footage in this minimalistic short, very sweet
Horst_In_Translation21 December 2014
Warning: Spoilers
"The Private Life of a Cat" is one of these very rare old films that can still appeal to younger audiences today, not counting cartoons of course. Not the most common description for an experimental movie. It was directed by Alexander Hammid (husband to Maya Deren at that point) during World War II and includes 22 minutes of silent footage from Mother Cat, Father Cat and their kittens shortly after birth and also a few weeks later. There is intertitles which help a lot due to the complete absence not only of narration, but of sound altogether, which was a bit uncommon for 1944. However, this film would probably also work great with some classic soundtrack. And still the pictures tell more than enough. Just saw that the film has listed a man named Gene Forrell as composer, so I may be wrong on this one. Anyway, the version I saw was completely silent.

One very excellent scene is the beautiful cat mother giving birth (closeup view) and how she cleans the five small cats with her tongue, one of them dark, the others light looking much more like their father. When the father came by shortly afterward, it was interesting to see how he would react to the newborn kittens, almost a bit dramatic. There's really nothing spectacular to this film. It's like a home story and probably everybody from us who has a camera could make it as well if they have a cat at home who is about to give birth. Maybe it even helped the atmosphere that we did not hear people talking or commenting all the time. At the end, the small ones and the mother are drinking milk. Cute closure to over 20 minutes worth watching.
2 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews

Recently Viewed