Cat’s Cradle

(Liz Hughes, Australia, 1991)


The great French filmmaker Georges Franju once observed that simply putting a telephone in a pot of jam is not, in itself, surreal; the truly surreal moment comes later, when you are used to the this state of things, and have to go to the bother of getting the damn telephone out of that sticky jam.


Liz Hughes’ outstanding short film Cat’s Cradle (made as a student work at the Victorian College of the Arts [VCA], formerly Swinburne Film School) works in the same, droll way as Franju’s thought-experiment. (And, fittingly enough, Hughes made another film that same year titled Jam.)


A crazy family, a father’s corpse on the table, a world in ruins: none of this seems, for those living inside it, particularly unusual. The only thing that matters is finding somewhere to neatly dispose of the troublesome body.


In this brief tale, however – a cross between Luis Buñuel’s The Exterminating Angel (1962), Roman Polanski’s short Two Men and a Wardrobe  (1958) and Alfred Hitchcock’s The Trouble with Harry (1955) – the physical world keeps resisting, and the dead body keeps hanging around …


Hughes’ style blends the high-contrast visuals of ancient expressionism with the heightened sound effects of modern cinema – and it tops off both with a black, perverse, punk sensibility.


Besides its various festival awards, Cat’s Cradle has had the honour of being covered in-depth by POV magazine (issue 1, 1996), an online journal edited by Richard Raskin and devoted solely to the study of short films. See that coverage here.


Cat’s Cradle can be viewed online, as part of the VCA archive:


© Adrian Martin May 1992

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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