Robert Altman’s revisionist update of Raymond Chandler‘s private eye story is a major cat movie; the entire opening sequence depicts Marlowe (Elliott Gould) being woken up by his cat, preparing food for his cat, and then, when it refuses to eat the food, going out to the convenience store to buy more.
This is a fine bit of Method acting by the cat. Note the entirely authentic way it tramples all over the sleeping Marlowe, miaows non-stop till it gets what it wants, and then decides it doesn’t want it anyway, no, it wants that other stuff.
Alas, the convenience store doesn’t stock the cat’s preferred brand, leading to the following exchange:
Convenience Store Guy: “We’re all out. Why don’t you get this? All this shit is the same.”
Marlowe: “Oh yeah? You don’t happen to have a cat by any chance?”
Convenience Store Guy: “What do I need a cat for? I got a girl.”
Marlowe (walking away): “Ha ha. He’s got a girl, and I got a cat.”
Marlowe tries to fool his cat by decanting another brand of cat food into an empty tin of the preferred brand, and thence into the cat’s dish. Needless to say, the cat is not fooled, and promptly exits the film via El Porto del Gato.
BIG SPOILERS AFTER THE PIC!
The cat, though long absent, nevertheless provides the film with its punchline. The chivalrous, honourable, principled Marlowe – a man out of his time – has finally caught up with Terry Lennox, the missing friend he has been protecting all the way through the film, only to find Lennox has been lying to him all along, is guilty of murder, and is now free to go and live with his fabulously wealthy mistress.
Lennox: “What the hell, nobody cares.”
Marlowe: “Yeah. Nobody cares but me.”
Lennox: “Well, that’s you Marlowe. You’ll never learn, you’re a born loser.”
Marlowe says “Yeah. I even lost my cat.” And shoots Lennox dead.