Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Cat People

1943, US, directed by Jacques Tourneur

A genuinely strange film, an intense psycho-sexual horror that doesn't seem to have raised the concerns of the Production Code despite it being unambiguous that the plot revolves around a (married) couple debating whether or not to sleep together because of the woman's unusual beliefs about her ancestry as one of the titular cat people. Thwarted passion is the order of the day, against a backdrop of increasing tension and atmospheric staging (most obviously in the nervy stalking scene on a dark city street, but more subtly and insistently within an apartment that comes to seem like a deadly trap). The storyline is something from a fever dream, but it's acted out and directed with enough conviction that it starts to convince -- or at least to convince that the characters are convinced of what they are experiencing. Still, what's most unsettling is not the horrors that the film puts front and central but rather a story that is unironically predicated on finding a method to dispose of one wife to free a man so that he can be linked up with the one he was always destined for; no-one quite seems to notice how creepy this is (such logic is hardly unique in films of the time: Pillow of Death could excuse a grave robber/stalker his misdeeds just because he's in love).

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States