One of the most compelling and uniquely dark films of the psychotic woman subgenre, Karen Arthur’s adaptation of Eric Westphal’s play You and Your Clouds stars Lee Grant as Ellen, an astronomer who lives with her feral sister Cissy.
One of the most compelling and uniquely dark films of the psychotic woman subgenre, Karen Arthur’s adaptation of Eric Westphal’s play You and Your Clouds stars Lee Grant as Ellen, an astronomer who lives with her feral sister Cissy (Carol Kane) in the large house left to them by their now-deceased anthropologist father. The distinction between the two sisters – one a caregiver with social responsibilities, the other an angry pet - is illustrated through aural cues: weird harpsichord music accompanies Ellen’s limited private life while pounding tribal percussion underscores Cissy’s fanciful existence alone in the house, which is decked out in exotic African textiles, pelts and artifacts. Sissy herself prefers to go around unclothed, or to wear ceremonial African vestments brought back from her father’s many expeditions. The centerpiece of their livingroom is a large cage, where Cissy keeps her rotating queue of ‘mafus’ (monkeys) who live as long as she will let them before she loses patience and sentences them to death.
Cissy is not just a ‘wild thing’, she’s completely nuts: she hyperventilates and screams like a dangerous, and when Ellen refuses to get her another Mafu on account of the fates of the previous ones, Cissy is alternately spiteful and conciliatory, demanding “You get me what I want or I will assassinate myself right now!”. But as much as Ellen wants Cissy to be normal, ‘normalcy’ is relative: Ellen is an enabler, and things only get this far out of hand because she allows them to. She sacrifices everything to Cissy – her work, her personal life – she even hates animals and yet she repeatedly acquiesces to Cissy’s demands for a large unruly pet that will inevitably be buried in the backyard before long. When Ellen is courted by a co-worker, Cissy’s bubble is threatened and the interloper finds himself at the centre of a violent sacrificial ceremony. (Kier-la Janisse)