Jan 19, 2016

Cat People (1982)

When he was at the height of his fame, cocaine addiction, and flagrant homophilia, screenwriter turned auteur filmmaker Paul Schrader (American Gigolo, The Canyons)—a lapsed member of the Dutch Reformed Church who did not see his first movie until he was 17-years-old because his extremely religious Calvinist parents forbid it (notably, after the filmmaker and his brother Leonard became established in Hollywood, their mother wrote them a letter reading, “Father and I will miss you in heaven.”)—began work on what would ultimately be his biggest and most elaborate studio film, Cat People (1982), which he mainly decided to make as a means to maintain his artistically fruitful friendship with gay Italian production designer Ferdinando Scarfiotti, who was largely responsible for the distinct look of the director's first big success American Gigolo (1980) starring Richard Gere. Indeed, as revealed in Easy Riders, Raging Bulls (1998) by Peter Biskind, “Schrader was working hard and playing hard. He became very much a part of the gay party scene, which he had been flirting with since TAXI DRIVER days in 1975 […] People like Schrader were attracted to it because they understood there was something religious in the intertwining of sex, death, and ecstasy.”  Of course, Scarfiotti—a cultivated man with an aristocratic demeanor who treated his sets with a preternatural seriousness, like he was Michelangelo working on the Sistine Chapel—was one of these extremely chic sod party boys and Schrader gave him free reign over the Cat People set, even attempting to include an inter-title at the beginning of the flick reading “A film by Paul Schrader and Ferdinando Scarfiotti,” but ultimately being denied the request by the studio (since Scarfiotti was not part of the relevant union at the time, he had to be credited as a ‘Visual Consultant,’ even though he was in charge of every single set piece and the overall look of the entire film). Schrader had good reason to kiss Scarfiotti’s gay ass, as he was the production designer of Bernardo Bertolucci’s Il conformist (1970) aka The Conformist, which was one of the filmmaker’s favorite films and greatest influences at the time, or as he stated himself, “You looked at Bertolucci, it was just like he took Godard and Antonioni, put them in bed together, held a gun to their hads, and said, ‘You guys fuck or I’ll shoot you.’” Despite being intended as an revisionist remake of the classic 1942 Val Lewton/Jacques Tourneur production of the same name and his first film that he did not actually write, Cat People would ironically eventually become a fairly personal project for Schrader for various reasons, not least of all because he was fucking star Nastassja Kinski at the time he made it. 

 Barely even qualifying as a remake of the 1942 film (in fact, Schrader later expressed regret that they did not change the title of the film, as he felt critics had judged him harshly by comparing Tourneur's film to his when they barely have anything in common), the film was heavily influenced by his philosophical propensity to put pussy on a pedestal, which was largely the result of his fear of the so-called fairer sex (indeed, the director has described the film as a “Dante and Beatrice story” in reference to Dante Alighieri's “courtly love” for a Florentine woman named Beatrice Portinari who he worshipped from afar and who became a great source of inspiration for Vita Nuova and The Divine Comedy). Indeed, as is quite evident when comparing both films, Schrader did heavy uncredited reworking of Alan Ormsby's original script, thereupon ultimately siring a semi-cryptic auteur piece where the male protagonist is more or less a stand-in for the filmmaker. While Schrader was obsessed with Kinski to the point where he planned to propose marriage to her, their relationship ended badly during the production and they eventually stopped talking on the set, though the clearly unhealthily obsessed filmmaker later followed her all the way to Paris in a desperate attempt to win her back.  Of course, the young actress was not happy and when Schrader dared to corner her and some young stud that she was dating at the time, Kinski stated to the lovelorn filmmaker, “Paul, I always fuck my directors. And with you it was difficult.” Luckily, Schrader’s fetishistic Dante-esque worship of Kinski was channeled into Cat People where the actress naturally spends a good portion of the second half of the film baring all, including her dark-haired Teuton-polack beaver (notably, Kinski later attempted to get the beaver shots taken out of the film, arguing that they were being used against her wishes, even though she had long ago bared her bush at the ripe age of 14 in the Hammer horror flick To the Devil a Daughter (1976), among various other examples during her career).  Considerably pissed that Kinski both dumped him and reneged on the nudity scenes, Schrader thankfully fought tooth and nail to keep these scenes intact.  Indeed, while Cat People is not a fuck flick, it is exceptionally erotically-charged and it is hard to imagine the film without these imperative scenes where a completely unclad Kinski stalks the New Orleans bayous like a sexually insatiable beastess that is on the prowl for something to fuck and kill.

 Admittedly, my recent decision to rewatch Cat People was largely inspired by the death of David Bowie, whose theme song “Cat People (Putting Out Fire)” act as sort of foreplay to the celluloid multiple orgasm that is Schrader’s succulently salacious piece of semi-sadomasochistic celluloid. Sort of like the Death in Venice of Hollywood horror (which is no surprise when one considers that Scarfiotti was the art director of Visconti’s masterful Thomas Mann adaptation), the film makes absolutely exquisite use of its truly foreboding New Orleans setting, thereupon making for a rare American film that gives the United States a truly exotic and otherworldly ancient essence that subtly underscores the fact that the largely Latin city is the culturally, racially, and spiritually mongrelized culmination of centuries of bizarre Afro-European intermingling. Indeed, the film might have a somewhat superficial and sometimes nonsensical storyline with plotholes, but that is somewhat irrelevant as the real appeal of the flick is it's sort of decidedly aesthetically decadent neo-Cocteauian phantasmagoria, or as Schrader once stated himself, “Previously, I've made films about daydreams – this is my first film about nightmares . . . It's about what goes on when the lights go out – the unconscious world inhabited by erotic fantasies, and what Cocteau calls the ‘sacred monsters’ . . . When you're dealing with the fantastic, you need a place where people would accept it (the myth) . . . New Orleans is one of those towns where you think almost anything can happen – and probably has!”  Indeed, as Cat People clearly demonstrates, if you want to make an American horror film with strong atmosphere and a foreboding spirit, there is probably no better place than ‘The City That Care Forgot.’

 While the film is ostensibly based on the same DeWitt Bodeen short story as its 1942 namesake, Cat People is less a remake than a tribute to Romanticism, Symbolism, and Art Nouveau (in fact, Schrader shot a recreation of Belgian Symbolist painter Fernand Khnopff’s painting “The Caress” featuring Kinski’s mother Ruth Brigitte Tocki with a leopard’s body, but opted to not use it in the film) and the films of great post-WWII guido auteurs like Visconti and Bertolucci. Additionally, aside from being a horror movie that, as Schrader described, “contains more skin than blood,” it also probably has more in common with the Southern Gothic genre than supernatural horror. In other words, Cat People clearly was not made by or for horror fanboys who diddle themselves to Friday the 13th movies while sporting hockey masks, hence why it had much more success in Europe than the United States. Aside from being arguably the ultimate film for Nastassja Kinski fetishists, Schrader’s flick is also probably the most elegant film ever made about zoophilia. The reluctantly supernatural yet unrepentantly sensual tale of an exotic yet terribly naive and seemingly borderline autistic beauteous young virgin of incestuous werecat stock who moves to New Orleans to be united with her long lost brother, only to become entrenched in a sort of seriously unwanted bizarre love triangle with her mentally sick sibling and a bookish yet extremely chivalrous zoo curator of the quasi-misanthropic sort who works with animals because he prefers them to people, Cat People is a somewhat cautionary tale about the perils of putting pussy on a pedestal, especially if said pussy is a crazy cunt of the uniquely unhinged and unpredictable sort. A horror film made for people that do not necessarily care for horror films that wallows in the dichotomous theme of the sacred and profane where Kinski does a fairly believable job portraying the ultimate archetypical virgin-whore, Schrader’s film is notable for its genre in that it dares to blur the line between myths and the archaic psycho-historical roots of said myths, hence Cocteau’s imperative influence. 

 After opening with an aesthetically pleasing ritual scene set in a fiery desert involving the ‘sacrifice’ of the lead female heroine’s ancient female ancestor to a leopard by a group of nearly naked tribesmen covered with crude body paint (rather curiously, this people are clearly non-white), Cat People then flashes forward to the present day at a New Orleans airport where the female protagonist/quasi-anti-heroine Irena Gallier (Nastassja Kinski in a role that Bo Derek was originally intended to play) is virtually stalked all the way to a payphone by her long lost brother Paul (Malcolm McDowell), who she has not seen since they were very young children after both of their parents tragically died. Unbeknownst to Irena, her long dead parents were brother and sister and died in a dubious suicide pact of sorts that the circumstances of are never fully revealed. Also, quite unlike Paul, Irena is completely unaware of the fact that she and her brother are werecats and if she has sex with a man, she will transform into a black panther and will remain in that form until she kills another person.  Of course, Paul is quite happy to see Irena, as he has big plans with her that mainly involve incestuous sex, lest they both be doomed to a life of perpetual murder and strange sexual dysfunction. As Irena learns upon arriving at her ancient family estate, the Galliers are watched over by a seemingly voodoo oriented negress servant named ‘Female’ (Ruby Dee in arguably her most unconventional and thankfully most apolitical role), who is also an orphan and who got her strange name (which is pronounced “feh-MAH-leh”) after someone wrote on her birth certificate, “Child, Female” since she had no parents. While celebrating their (un)timely reunion during a sort of homecoming dinner where they eat “Female’s special gumbo,” Paul asks his sister if she remembers him in any way and she replies in a borderline sensual fashion, “Mmm, I used to fantasize about you…when I was in the orphanage. Well, you know, about you coming to rescue me and things. Daydreams.” According to Paul, he “had the same dream,” thus underscoring their innate supernatural connection as inbred werecats. Indeed, while she is not conscious of it yet, Irena’s body is telling her to be defiled by her brother, who is determined to make his little sis his lover.  Unfortunately for Paul, who gets temporary sexual release by fucking and killing dumb whores and trashy prostitutes, his sister will ultimately fall in love with a mere human, thereupon eventually leading to quite deadly consequences.

 During their first night together, Paul gets so intolerably horny for his sister that he decides to seek the company of a hooker, thus resulting in unfortunate consequences for all involved. When a streetwalker arrives at a sleazy fleabag hotel to meet a john, she gets quite the surprise when she is brutally mauled by a black leopard that is hiding under a bed.  As the viewer somewhat suspects, the leopard is actually Paul in animal form. Although the streetwalker survives the attack, the panther if left trapped in the hotel room and is eventually captured the next day by a zoologist/zoo curator named Oliver Yates (John Heard of C.H.U.D. (1984) and the Home Alone franchise) with the help of his female assistant/fuck-buddy Alice Perrin (Annette O'Toole of Superman III (1983) and Smallville (2001)) and some cops and imprisoned at a strange borderline Fellini-esque zoo where female secretaries do office work above cages full of dangerous animals. Although a handsome, intelligent, and seemingly physically strong fellow, Oliver is an introverted dork who spends his free time reciting Dante and dreaming of an ideal woman that he can put on a pedestal and worship like a goddess.  While his co-worker Alice—a reasonably beauteous babe with a classic Nordic physique and a fairly nice set of large firm tits—is clearly in love with him, Oliver is not quite interested in making her his serious lover, as he seems to be looking for a lady that is more exotic and enigmatic. Luckily, supernatural virgin Irena is probably the closest thing to a real-life goddess and she will soon enter Oliver’s life by sheer happenstance. When Paul goes missing, Irena, who expected to be given an extensive tour of the city by her brother, goes looking for him around the French Quarter, thus eventually leading her to the zoo where she meets Oliver under awkward circumstances after running away from him after he startles her. Naturally, it is love at first sight for hopeless romantic Paul, who immediately offers Irena a job at the zoo gift shop. While everything initially goes splendid at the zoo, Irena is soon given somewhat of a shock after witnessing the black panther, who she has no clue is actually her brother, attacking and killing a fairly obnoxious zookeeper named Joe Creigh (Ed Begley, Jr. of Monte Hellman’s Cockfighter (1974)).  With a single bite, Paul-as-the-panther manages to completely dismember one of Joe's arms.  Although Oliver resolves to euthanize the killer cat, he discovers it has escaped when he goes to its cage to kill it. Of course, as result of murdering Joe, Paul was able to transform back into a human and escape. As a result of witnessing his sister’s budding romance with Oliver while imprisoned in the zoo, Paul is determined to deflower his little sis ASAP so that he can have the distinguished luxury of being the man who pops her cherry. 

 When Paul somewhat surprises Irena by randomly showing up back at the house after disappearing for days, he ignores his sister when she describes about being completely horrified as a result of witnessing Joe’s brutal death and then proceeds to accuse her of wanting to jump on Oliver's cock, stating in a somewhat hostile yet nonetheless sexually-charged fashion, “You want to fuck him, don’t you? You dream about fucking him. Your whole body burns. Burns all along your nerves. In your mouth, your breasts. You go wet between your legs.” When Paul attempts to defile her while rationalizing his violently incestuous actions by stating, “But I’m the only one who can touch you, and you’re the only one who can touch me. Don’t you see we’re saved together because we’re the same,” Irena predictably decides to flee the house and does so by instinctually doing a back-flip off a second floor building in a scene that somewhat seems like a homage to Leni Riefenstahl's Olympia (1938). While a police officer finds Irena running down the street in a hysterical fashion and proceeds to question her, she opts to not tell him about her big brother’s violently incestuous outburst. When another police officer comes by the house and his K9 dog starts barking after catching a scent, the police decide to search the home and ultimately find a large animal cage and the remains of three or four dead sluts and prostitutes, or as an inordinately stoic negro cop named Detective Brandt (Frankie Faison of the Hannibal Lecter franchise) tells Oliver while showing him the grisly crime scene, “I expect Gallier killed them first, possibly as part of some ritual. Then fed ‘em to the leopard. We’ve found some others, too, over the years. Mostly prostitutes, female runaways, half-eaten, genitals torn out […] Gallier’s been in and out of psycho wards since he was 12. He’s a religious fanatic.” Needless to say, Oliver wants to know if Irena was in any way involved in the fetishistic murders and Detective Brandt calms some of his worries while stirring others by remarking, “We have no reason to suspect her. In fact, it looked as if he’d planned to kill her too.” 

 With her brother Paul a wanted fugitive on the run and her servant Female imprisoned, Irena naturally accepts Oliver’s invitation to move into his flat, thereupon accelerating the evolution of their initially fairly tame romance. Not long after she moves in, Oliver enthusiastically declares he plans to one day buy her a plantation and takes her on a sort of mini-vacation to a small red boathouse that he has on the bayou. While the two lovers have fun during the day while doing harmless things together like boating and crabbing, things get somewhat more intense later that night since both of them have become quite sexually frustrated as a result of the fact that Irena refuses to allow Oliver to deflower her. Of course, things get even more complicated when Oliver wakes up in the middle of the night and sees Irena screaming at him to not look at her since she is completely naked body and covered in blood. Indeed, as a result of her werecat instincts, Irena woke up in the middle of the night and decided to go hunting for prey in the form of a cute bunny rabbit that she sank her teeth into while it was still alive, even though she is a vegetarian. During the same night, Paul murders a dumb blonde named Billie (Tessa Richarde of Boaz Davidson’s The Last American Virgin (1982)) that he met in a graveyard earlier that day after she gives him a blowjob in a hotel room. When the two lovers get back from their trip, Irena has a slight mental breakdown and expresses her doubt about her her sanity and the future of their relationship, so Oliver states to her in an intimately impassioned fashion, “Listen, Irena, I’m 34 years old. I spent most of my life looking for somebody…I even wanted to be in love with. Now that I’ve found you, I’m not gonna let you go. I love you.” When Irena replies, “Oh, yeah? Would you love me just as much…if we, if we could never sleep together?,” Oliver attempts to console her and assure her of his love for her by stating absurdly nonsensical pseudo-poetic things like, “I loved you before you were born.” Unbeknownst to both Oliver and Irena, Paul while hiding in a tree above them the entire time and he listened to their entire conversation. Ultimately, Paul decides to surprise Irena by crashing through a window and then subsequently attempting to explain to her of the importance of them becoming lovers, stating in a violently despairing fashion, “Save me. Only you can stop this killing. You’ve got to make love with me…as brother and sister. I’ve searched for you for so long, from one foster home to another. We can live together as mates. Just as our parents did. You do know that they were brother and sister, don’t you? Oh yes. Make love with me and save both of us.”  While Paul gets a little bit rough with his sister, Irena eventually manages to escape by stabbing him in the hand with a piece of broken glass. When Oliver comes home later that night, he finds Paul there waiting for him in semi-panther form. Luckily, Alice shots and kills Paul with a shotgun just after he transforms into a panther and attempts to maul Oliver. When Oliver later does an autopsy of the werecat, he is disturbed to find a human body inside the panther corpse. Even more curiously, after cutting open Paul’s corpse, green gas oozes out and eventually evaporates both the panther and human corpse into a pool flesh and viscera, thereupon conveniently ensuring that Oliver is unable to document the supernatural creature. 

 With her only living relative now dead, Irena decides to visit Female in prison to get advice about what she should do next and is ultimately given the semi-cryptic words of wisdom by the worldly spiritual negress, “Live as he [Paul] did: hidden, in jails. Never love. Pretend the world is what men think it is.”  Hoping to figuratively and literally flee from her truly nightmarish situation, Irena decides to flee town and buys a train ticket to Richmond, Virginia, but during the train ride she has an elaborate life-changing dream involving her dead brother Paul that fully awakens her long dormant atavistic instincts and transforms her from skittish prey into a lethally lecherous predator on the prowl. Indeed, during the otherworldly dream-sequence, Irena enters a windy transcendental desert realm with a dark orange tone where she is greeted by her brother, who is topless and declares to her in a quite proud fashion in regard to the legacy of their godly werecat heritage, “Long ago our ancestors sacrificed their children to the leopards. The souls of the children grew inside the leopards…until the leopards became human. We were gods then. We are an incestuous race. We can only make love with our own, otherwise we transform. And before we can become human again, we must kill.” During the dream, Irena also meets her mother in panther form. After the dream, Irena evolves into a cruel, craven, and completely confident sexual predator and opts to travel back to New Orleans to hunt down Oliver so that she can lose her virginity and finally fully embrace her werecat birthright.  Luckily for Irena, Oliver is so obsessively in love with her that he is somewhat willing to overlook certain things about her, including her primal urge to kill, especially after they fuck.

 Before seeking out Oliver, Irena decides to crush the sexual competition by stalking and severely petrifying Alice, who is hopelessly in love with the male protagonist (notably, Alice's jealously of Irena and love of Oliver is made quite clear in a scene where she states to the latter, “Her [Irena's] type will always be all right. Look, I’m not blind, Oliver. I’ve seen you obsessed before, [but] not like this. I even thought I’d seen you in love before. I guess that was just my vanity.”).  Indeed, in one of the few scenes in the film that was also in the original 1942 Cat People, Irena scares the shit out of Alice while she is swimming in an indoor swimming pool by lurking in the shadows and making bestial sounds (notably, Schrader opted to add an extra layer to Alice’s vulnerability by having the character swim topless). When Irena eventually comes out and reveals herself to Alice after sadistically terrorizing her like a cat that is playing with a mouse that it is about to kill, her jealous rival loses all self-control and immediately accuses her of wanting to kill her. Of course, Irena just continues to play mind games with Alice by maintaining a gleefully sadistic smile and stating to her in a preposterously passive-aggressive fashion, “I’m sorry if I frightened you.” While Alice subsequently calls Oliver and tells her about Irena’s creepy behavior, the male protagonist hangs up the phone on her when his leopard lady love randomly walks in the house and begins stripping off her clothes in a provocative fashion where she more than obviously demonstrates that she is finally ready to fuck. Needless to say, Oliver experiences the erotic relief of a lifetime when he subsequently deflowers Irena after having been cock-blocked for such a long time. After the two fall asleep, Irena wakes up in the middle of the night and admires and licks blood that is dripping from her hemorrhaging de-hymened werecat cunt. Of course, not like after sampling her vaginal sanguine fluids, Irena transforms into a panther for the first time and pounces on Oliver, though her love for him stops her from slaughtering and killing him. Instead, werecat Irena flees Oliver’s home and then causes a spectacle of herself by occupying a bridge where she is ultimately trapped by police. When Oliver eventually arrives at the scene, Irena jumps off the bridge and swims to land while dodging police bullets. 

 Naturally, Oliver immediately goes looking for Irena and is disturbed when he happens upon the mangled corpse of his elderly friend Yeatman Brewer (Emery Hollier), who the heroine killed so that she could transform back into a human. Not long after finding the dead body, Oliver is approached by Irena, who unrepentantly declares she killed Yeatman and then begs the protagonist to kill her, which he naturally refuses to do. When Oliver asks her why she did not kill him, she tells him that it is because she loves him. While stripping off her clothes, Irena then declares, “Free me. Make love to me again. I want to live with my own.” Of course, Oliver enthusiastically abides, though he makes sure to tie all four of Irena's limbs to bedposts before penetrating the human pussycat’s puss in a tastefully sleazy scene that is part quasi-religious ritual and part zoophiliac S&M bondage scene. In a bizarre and totally unforgettably twist ending, it is casually revealed that Oliver has not only started a romance with Alice, but that he also has managed to keep Irena. Indeed, in the very last scene, Oliver is depicted gently stroking and hand-feeding a black panther at the zoo that the viewer presumes is Irena, who has been placed on a sort of perennial pedestal that arguably demonstrates that the curious male protagonist is more interested in romanticizing the idea of love than actually making love to women, henceforth underscoring auteur Schrader's somewhat ‘idiosyncratic’ philosophical view of love and romance. 

 Ironically, despite originally being intended as an impersonal project where the auteur wanted to have the luxury of utilizing studio resources and to experiment with adapting someone else’s work, Cat People would ultimately evolve into one of Schrader’s most embarrassingly, if not somewhat cryptically, autobiographical works, albeit with a bizarre happy ending that is in stark contrast to what he actually experienced in real-life. Indeed, instead of having the grand honor of permanently keeping Nastassja Kinski imprisoned in a cage like the male protagonist in the film, Schrader was not only pathetically dumped by the actress but also heckled by then Universal Pictures executive Ned Tanen for filming various beaver shots of the intemperate Teutonic actress (as described in Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, Tanen called up Schrader and said, “Listen, you fucking idiot, this girl [Kinski] is running around telling everybody you shot her crotch and you’re going to put beaver shots in the middle of this movie,what the fuck are you doing?,” to which the angry and vengeful lovelorn auteur apparently replied, “Oh man, she fucked me over and I’m going to fuck her, nobody’s going to treat me this way. . .”). Luckily, Schrader did not have to excise the beaver shots from the film but both his career and personal life was a mess, as the film was a commercial failure and he had some serious drug problems, or as he stated himself, “My life was completely fucked up by women and drugs and my career had gone dead. The Russian roulette was the event that made it clear to me it was time to leave L.A., go to New York, and start over. So I did.” Thankfully, unlike many of the other filmmakers of his generation that were associated with the New Hollywood movement, Schrader was able to get his shit together and went to Japan to direct what he has described as his masterpiece, Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (1985), which is actually alluded to in Cat People (indeed, there is a shot in the film of a Mishima biography sitting on Oliver's nightstand). As Schrader would later state of the film and its importance in the context of his entire oeuvre, “It's the one I'd stand by – as a screenwriter it's TAXI DRIVER, but as a director it's MISHIMA.”   Somewhat ironically since Schrader once declared, “STAR WARS was the film that ate the heart and the soul of Hollywood.  It created the big-budget comic book mentality,” George Lucas was one of the executive producers on his Mishima biopic.  Notably, there is actually a scene in Cat People where Schrader takes a snipe at Lucas and his commercialization of cinema where a couple little boys buy some The Empire Strikes Back (1980) chewing gum from Kinski while she is working at the zoo gift shop.  Of course, I am sure his film would have been more popular and profitable if Schrader had opted to release Cat People merchandise like Kinski sex lube and McDowell dildos, but I digress.

 Notably, in the featurette Cat People: An Intimate Portrait, Schrader would reveal in regard to Cat People and its central Beatrice complex theme that he had a personal tendency to put pussies on a pedestal as a sort of therapeutic means to deal with his “fear of women.” Of course, no matter what women say, they never truly respect a man that treats them like an immaculate goddess that is worthy of worship, hence one of various reasons as to why Kinski grew to loathe Schrader as a woman that later admitted to him, “I always fuck my directors.  And with you it was difficult.”  Despite the fact that Schrader saw her as a goddess, Kinski's quote clearly reveals that she felt that he was, at best, less than average, at least as far as fuck-buddies are concerned. Personally, one of the things I found most intriguing about the film was that Schrader attempted to do a sort of heterosexual take on Cocteau with a big budget Hollywood studio flick, which explains why it was so poorly received among filmgoers. Notably, in an interview featured in Schrader on Schrader & Other Writings (1990), the filmmaker would confess, “…on CAT PEOPLE the tapes I took along were BEAUTY AND THE BEAST and ORPHEUS, which are obviously nonpareil landmarks in the history of movies. There will never be another Cocteau.” Admittedly, when I first saw Schrader’s film over a decade ago, I was not all that impressed, but now I see it as a highly re-watched novelty of bizarre cocaine-addled cinematic experimentation where the seemingly disharmonious worlds of Hollywood horror trash and European arthouse reluctantly fucked and gave birth to an aesthetically majestic monster of a movie that is quite easy on the eyes. Additionally, I always appreciate a horror film where the archetypical roots of fear and eroticism are provocatively played with (as the filmmaker also stated in Schrader on Schrader, “The NEWSWEEK review said it was a movie for the Jung at heart, and I guess that’s pretty much what I wanted: the idea of myth and the kind of primal images that are embedded in our genes.”). Of course, Bowie’s addicting theme song and Scarfiotti’s extravagant sets alone are worth the price of admission. Indeed, as a wonderfully wanton and delightfully eclectically aesthetically decadent movie of erotic murder and mayhem that is like a popcorn flick for both Jungians and lapsed horror fiends turned arthouse fags, Cat People is the virtual definition of a cinematic guilty pleasure, at least if you’re lame and/or pretentious enough to feel guilty for liking it. 

-Ty E

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