When Will Braden went to film school in 2006, he didn’t know what he wanted to do with his career. He even struggled with the assignments at Seattle Film Institute.
Unsure of what to do for one film class project, he procrastinated. Only when his options were running out did he turn his attention to the star furball that had been on the floor all along. Braden decided to tape a two-minute piece about his mother’s cat, Henry. But this was no normal cat doc, this was a tale of Henry rechristened as the tormented, french “Henri,” a “regal” feline unimpressed with the trappings of a luxurious life.
“My caretakers love me … but I feel empty,” announces Henri Le Chat Noir in his debut. The black cat with white paws finds the thorn in every rose. The filtered water tastes impure. Flavors of his cat food all taste the same. Henri may have a cat door that allows him to leave home whenever he wants, but he cannot escape a foreboding ennui that wraps his mind like a shaggy fur coat.
Henri — A Life-Changing Assignment
The assignment, which spoofed mid-century, French experimental cinema, earned Braden a top grade at the Film Institute. The piece also racked up millions of views on Youtube. it also started down a path that would lead to a career in cat videos. The second installment of “Henri, Le Chat Noir” won a Golden Kitty Award at the 2012 Internet Cat Video Film Festival. In later years, Braden went on to work with event, reviewing submissions, informing nominees of their status and even creating the preview trailer for later festivals. All this from a school assignment he pulled together at the last minute.
Looking at the “Henri” debut, it’s possible to see how much Braden grew as a filmmaker. In this early installment, the shots are a bit blurry and the framing could be a bit stronger. In some ways, it makes the piece look more vintage, but later episodes demonstrated growth in Braden’s abilities as a cinematographer.
Still the tone and voice of the series is well established. “I am like a pendulum that does not swing,” announces Henri as his tail wags. The piece ends with “I am Henri,” as a character study. Later installments end with more of a punchline, but it was a fitting end for the initial profile.
Here, without any more ado is the Henri Le Chat Noir debut: