By Charleston Nabob
If you do not have a cat, nor one who visits, nor one you pass in town, you deny yourself one channel to eternity—for they are creatures mysterious, of behavior strange but familiar, who stare at kings indifferent then jump at a slight noise. They are of an aspect pondering, who seem to see shadows when none are there, who listen vigilant when all around is silence. They are as aware as we are that this is not the end, that there is something else beyond this—and they behold it within and about them.
“Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” is Our Movie. They say the world’s most reviled man once left a Wagner performance in a state of frenzy, brought on by the force, the towering heights, the sheer power of the artistic creation. Perhaps it was this madness that carried him through life to do what he did. I must say, if I weren’t made so mild mannered, so inured to our horizon by the sultry atmosphere of Charleston and the many drinks and foods and sights of women and churches and harbor vistas, I may just get upset about the order of things after watching this flick.
It begins by telling you it is a fairy tale—but there are portions of our world: there in the first scene you see churches and architecture of a people. This is the world of the Incarnation. There is a festival, a bacchanalia in the name of our hero: Puss in Boots—a tabby cat donning oversized leather boots, a musketeer hat with ostentatious plume, a cape, and by his side a rapier. In his pomp and frills and Dionysian madness swirling through the home of an absent governor, he awakens a giant—those chthonic fiends who challenge the throne of gods. With measure, with no reckless disregard but certainty unswerved as Ahab he launches as missile forth, rapier afront, turned-arrow into the giant who he pricks at the nail—no greater pain can be found.
“Fear me if you dare!” he cries on his second assault traversing the ceiling of the village above the people to bring low Capaneus. He is Hektor before the walls of the Danáäns.
…through the breach in glory Hektor leapt,
his visage dark as nightfall, though he shone
terribly from the bronze that he was dressed in,
carrying a brace of spears.
No one could stop him,
none but the gods, as he leapt through the gate,
his eyes burning.
The giant is destroyed in grand fashion single-handedly by Puss. But the stabby tabby is crushed by the very device which brought down his foe—a church bell.
We have established this world of Puss is our world, that he destroys the giants of this world. Therefore, he is as cats truly are: of some near-divine nature. Is this like our Imago Dei? Partially. Puss is, as alluded to before, a Greek champion of old, tearing across the fields of Ilion, of those massive human-like bones found by the shepherd Gyges in a Lydian cave.
And because of this, he rises again—landing on his feet, proverbially.
Eight down, one to go: thus begins our problem. Puss is out of lives, his flesh mortal, now rotting on the bone. No matter, he is Puss in Boots—no blade has touched me, he declares! Hide, says the doctor, run away: save yourself! Lap cats live just as well as the bandito! Puss scoffs.
Death is first heard, not seen. You hear the whereabouts of its approach, its near impending arrival before you ever see it. Our oldest foe, unchanged, unevolved, always and ever the same—death. Canis lupus comes to collect Puss, carrying scythe adamantine. Puss stands and attacks—but is bested. He suffers a graze, never known to this world for Puss in Boots to have suffered a blade! His hair stands on end. He is disarmed, but his opponent offers it back in jest, wanting more of a fight—but Puss runs. Quantum mutatus ab illo Hectore!
…and Hektor, as he watched, began to tremble.
Then he could hold his ground no more. He ran,
leaving the gate behind him, with Akhilleus
hard on his heels, sure of his own speed.
To Mama Luna, run—corre, corre, gatito! Puss buries his boots, cape, and hat—his sword left at the sight of his last duel. False death, that is night and the sleep that attends. The moon presides where men lay in slumber—death in life. Puss, do not flambé your breakfast! Puss, do not use a private lavatory but the litterbox with rest! Puss, eat from the trough! Eat the protein and vitamin mush with your brothers and sisters! Yes, though they are of a different blood, Mama Luna is mother to you all and declares each and every one of you the same and of the same blood since you are all cats! Foul, horrid, stench of death. Grunts, meows, no more bravado, no boasts and strut—on all fours now, Puss! Our hero is now cattle.
What breaks the spell? What makes rise like Lazarus our hero? An Absolute Retard. It is a chihuahua in camouflage, dressed as a cat, hoping to find a home anywhere, somewhere, rejected from everywhere but not yet here. This dog speaks, like Puss, and around the trough they convene. This Absolute Retard does not know him or of him, which does not bother Puss so much as it might have in the past. Bothersome, this dog is; Puss simply wants to be left alone!
But the world will not leave you be. Things more horrible will find you. Half man, half beast, some chav skid mark comes lumbering in Cockney to find Puss. It is Goldilocks, adorned in beads with hair tribal in an image of Boudica. She rides on bears, the Three Bears, all lower-class illiterates. Here comes Democracy demanding the services of the singular Puss in Boots—serve us, Coriolanus!
According to the universe of this movie which reflects our own world, eternity is here on earth—you just have to find it. Long ago, a piece of it fell from the heavens. It remains hidden in a deep forest. It is the Wishing Star, and Goldilocks and her beastly family want to find it with the help of Puss. But first they need him to swipe the map from Big Jack Horner.
Here is our most reactionary critique. Upon hearing of the Wishing Star, Puss decides to find it for himself, to get more lives, to live as he did before. He must get the map from Big Jack Horner first, or else the masses will get their wish before he does.
Deny the masses, get it for yourself!
And who—or better yet, what—is Big Jack Horner? He is Empire, he is the fat, grotesque, industrial world-flattening Empire that makes all things the same. He is hideous, his factory makes sugar-infused sweets and pies and makes you a disfigured husk of man. Within it he holds all the world’s haecceity, keeping it for himself, stealing it from the vital. It is a subversive nod the writers of this movie gave when the first weapon used by Big Jack Horner is Poseidon’s Trident: that which the British Empire first seized in their quest to take the world.
We have Empire, Mass Man, and the swashbuckling hero all competing to reach eternity. Who will get there first?
Through the Dark Forest the parties go. The landscape shifts according to who holds the map. The past informs their journey through. Skirmishes ensue, daring escapes. Puss is assisted throughout by a new but old companion he encountered at Big Jack Horner’s factory, Kitty Softpaws, voiced by the well-endowed Selma Hayek (this must be said whenever she appears, do not lie). Kitty, Perrito (the Absolute Retard from Mama Luna’s), and Puss fight Big Jack Horner and Goldilocks with her bears in a great battle—then the Lobo appears again, sending Puss running with hair on end. To say it does not contain aspects of the tragic would be false.
How sad that this beloved man is hunted
around the wall before my eyes! My heart
is touched for Hektor…
What pursues you, asks the Absolute Retard. Puss is then compelled to tell Perrito his story and of the Lobo. We learn Puss was to marry Kitty in the past, but he abandoned her at the altar. Again, to reiterate: this is the world of the Incarnation. Puss cannot be contained even by the immensity of the Church: he must go further, there is more to be done—there is more adventure the Church cannot give him. A Christian knows when you marry, as a man, you marry the church. Puss refuses: he must pursue the celestial, the eternal movement and that something beyond this world just visible in this world. Only Death can stop him.
The great culmination. We learn the Lobo is no bounty hunter, but god of the underworld, and he wants Puss now—no need to lose the ninth and last life under his own terms after squandering the first eight. Death lets him escape with the map to the Wishing Star for one final test. There, on a strip of eternity, Puss arrives. Kitty and Perrito come in his wake after he fled in terror from the wolf. Puss must have his lives, he must never die, he tells them. Soon, the bears and Horner arrive. A Mexican standoff ensues.
But even there, Puss is pursued. None recognize his call, neither the bears nor Perrito nor Selma Hayek. Death comes: he wants the cat in one last duel, tossing him the rapier he left at their first fight. Enclosed in a wall of flame, Puss shudders, holding the ticket that could grant him the wish if he only intones the command. He could take eternity, or fight Death. As a kitten he sees the world, his loves and all that is good and worth fighting—and dying—for. His eyes open, and he looks upon Death with a new gaze. Fear me if you dare!
He is Diomedes, jousting with gods. Death backpedals after being struck, then wields his scythe again. Death cuts the boots, Death slices the hat—Death disarms Puss once more.
What is that saves us? In the end, sure, I will grant the gods bring us to salvation. But here, what is it? Could it be the friends we make along the way?
With the dagger given to him by Kitty, Puss deflects Death’s final blow. He gathers his rapier and his hat then breaks the scythe of Death before finally smashing him to the ground. Puss conquers the god.
In the end, Puss spares Deracinated Man but vanquishes Empire. The star collapses after Puss and Kitty tear apart the map, swallowing Big Jack Horner. Better to let the masses remain and rule over them then let Empire use them against him.
And his new entourage? They form Team Friendship. No, Puss does not marry Kitty—though the tension remains. Puss will not be chained down. He is eternal, constantly on the prowl, always looking for adventure, hoping to attain immortality.
Upon ending, I stood with tears streaming applauding rapturous. My wife rolls her eyes, “What did you see in this? It was so…weird!”
I collapse onto the couch, eyes sealed to hold the memory, with smile wide.
“Finally,” I said, “I can finally say I saw myself represented on the silver screen…”
Charleston Nabob can be found on Twitter
2 Comments Add yours
You know, if you’re bored I can find something for you to do.
Thank you for another entertaining read, a welcome escape.