Darrell Hartman at The Paris Review:
If you love something, you let it go. Cat people understand this intuitively. You never quite possess a cat, and the sooner you acknowledge that, the better. Cats will chase the tinfoil ball, if they are in the mood, but they will almost certainly not bring it back. We forgive them for this because there is no other option.
I have no trouble linking cats to the divine. Chris Marker’s transcendent short film of a sleeping cat is nothing if not an image of Nirvana, pure being, whatever you want to call it. The look in a cat’s eye guides us toward an idea of freedom, as Claude Lévi-Strauss suggested. Having spent a lifetime studying the structures of ancient societies, the French anthropologist understood well the prison cell into which technological man had locked himself. Only at rare moments, Lévi-Strauss posits near the end ofTristes Tropiques, do we see beyond this cell. One of those is “in the brief glance, heavy with patience, serenity and mutual forgiveness, that, through some involuntary understanding, one can sometimes exchange with a cat.”
To watch films of cats (or even merely videos of them) may not carry the same “serenity” as an exchanged glance—and yet it can be, I propose, a road to a better place. Don’t believe me? Go see Kedi, opening February 10 in New York. Directed by Ceyda Torun, an LA-based filmmaker who grew up in Istanbul, it’s a feature-length documentary that profiles, if that’s the right word, seven alley cats in Istanbul.