CAT OF THE DAY 105: PROOF (1991)

“Hello Ugly!”

The first dialogue in Jocelyn Moorhouse’s writing-directing debut, a well-reviewed film in the Australian post-New Wave, is addressed (affectionately) to a stray tabby cat. The speaker is Andy, an easy-going kitchen hand (Russell Crowe), who feeds the animal scraps in the alleyway behind the restaurant where he works.

The film’s central character is Martin (Hugo Weaving), a blind photographer with profound trust issues and an intense love-hate relationship with his housekeeper (Geneviève Picot). Andy will be the catalyst whose presence in Martin’s life will initiate the drama and lead to the film’s resolution – but how to get two characters from such different worlds to meet?

Simples. Getting people together is what CATGUFFINS do.

proof08While walking down the alleyway with his white stick, Martin accidentally knocks over some crates, crushing the cat. For while, it looks as though poor Ugly will be an early CATRIFICE.

Andy (accusingly): You killed Ugly. I think you broke his neck.

Martin (without emotion, after touching the cadaver): It’s not dead.

Andy: Aw shit. Sorry, Ugly.

The two men take Ugly to the vet, where there’s a long scene with the limp cat and other animals in the waiting-room. Meanwhile, the blind photographer takes photographs of Andy with the unconscious cat (so limp it looks suspiciously like a lifeless stand-in), and continues to take them in the vet’s surgery, where the animal is (happily) revived. Hurrah!

proof04Ugly’s task is done, so from this point on he cedes Chief Animal Role in the Film to Martin’s guide dog, a Labrador called Bill, who also has an important part to play.

It’s an absorbing, unusual film which has funny moments (the absurdity of a photographer being blind is never forgotten) but has interesting things to say about human interdependency and is not generally played for laughs. Plus there are likeable early performances from Weaving and Crowe, two future Antipodean superstars – and what a pleasure it is to see young Russell interacting with Ugly.

Bill is played by Corey. We’re not told who played Ugly, which is a shame.

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9 Responses to CAT OF THE DAY 105: PROOF

  1. crowjane29 says:

    In Jocelyn Moorhouse’s published (extended) screenplay for Proof, Ugly is adopted by Martin and makes brief appearances in a few scenes at Martin’s house. Unfortunately these sequences don’t appear in the final film.

  2. annebillson says:

    Interesting! Maybe they decided it was easier to stick with just the dog. But I would like to have seen Ugly go to a good home. The housekeeper could have taken him – she clearly needed a cat.

  3. crowjane29 says:

    Totally agree! 😉 There are references to Ugly winding himself around Celia’s legs when she’s cleaning Martin’s house in the original screenplay. A lot of scenes in the published version got cut from the film simply for time and streamlining, according to Moorhouse, but I’m glad she published the original version which clarifies Ugly’s fate.

  4. Pingback: STC Macbeth A Night With The Actors, New Reviews, New Hugo Weaving Interview Promoting Mystery Road | Hugonuts WordPress

  5. Kelly says:

    What a neat blog concept! I love cats and film. Can’t wait to dig into your archive.

  6. neer says:

    Thank you so much fro posting about this movie as Hugo Weaving is one of my favourite actors. I’ll see whether I can get a copy of it.

    Martin (without emotion, after touching the cadaver): It’s not dead.

    He really does unemotional very well, doesn’t he?

    • annebillson says:

      You’re welcome! I’d always known about this film, just never got round to watching it till recently, so I have Cats on Film to thank for giving me the incentive to do that. It was wonderful seeing Weaving and Crowe at the start of their careers. Both total screen naturals, of course. I liked the actress who plays the housekeeper too; a shame she didn’t become as well known as her co-stars.

  7. Always thrilled to see an update of Cats on Film. Here’s a must-see for you: The Strange Little Cat (2013, “Das merkwürdige Kätzchen”).

    Haven’t seen it yet – apparently it’s based on ‘Metamorphosis’. Does someone turn into a cat, I wonder? Major moggy action, in any case, and it sounds like your kind of movie!

    Chris Jenkins

    • annebillson says:

      Hi Chris,

      Thanks! As luck would have it, I have an imported German DVD of that very film sitting on my desk at home. It’s one of the next in the queue. I have deliberately avoided reading up on it, so am quite curious… A report will definitely follow!

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