Will Braden, the creator of the “Henri, Le Chat Noir” video series and books made his first installment in the series “Henri” in 2007 while puttering away at the Seattle Film Institute. That debut earned Braden an “A” for the class assignment, but it wasn’t until “Henri 2, Paw de Deux” was released five years later that the longhair tuxedo cat became one of the most famous cats on the internet, or at least a cult hero.
The screening of “Henri 2, Paw de Deux” at the Walker Art Center’s Internet Cat Video Film Festival led to a Golden Kitty award and a writeup in The New York Times. In two minutes, Braden demonstrated that a Youtube video could be an arch, art house film satire filled with crowd-pleasing giggles.
Henri, Le Chat Noir – Trapped in a Luxurious Fur Coat
The tuxedo feline king grows bored with his throne. A faceless attendant trim’s the cat’s fur coat. As with most “Henri, Le Chat Noir” installments, a cloud of ennui wafts from the star’s deadeye stare. He sleeps 15 hours a day, yet wakes to “the same tedium.”
The narrative of “Henri 2, Paw de Deux” ruminates on an interior feline world riddled with longing, regret and stasis. Braden nicked the tone from mid-20th century experimental French films. A poster from Le Chat Noir (Rodolph Salis’ late 19th century art cabaret) reminds the ball of fur of the grand days of black cats. Now it is just a memory that appears on way too many dorm room walls. As Henri succinctly remarks: “Immortalized on the wall … forgotten on the floor.”
He ruminates on the few things he has learned meting out his life in cans of cat food. One should not eat the “whipped cream” in bathroom. The mirror can mock our existence. And the cat door, well, you’ll have to see for yourself.