Saturday, November 17, 2007

Cat People

I had heard and read about Cat People so many times but never got a chance to see it until yesterday. This is really a very beautiful film. There are few things I love more, specially in a black and white film, than the dark moving shadows and the abstract patterns they make. This film is full of such effects. After seeing it the first thing that comes to mind is that why they chose this particular title for the film? It is not hard to guess though. The studio executives at the RKO hoping to revive their fortunes came up with such lurid and sensational titles and handed them over to Val Lewton who was in-charge of the horror unit at the studio. It was he brought in the best talents together in every single department and left a personal imprint on the whole film. That's what makes him one of the rare auteur-producers in the history of cinema.

It is again not hard to imagine why someone would have wanted to make The Curse of the Cat People, the sequel to the original predecessor. A sufficiently lurid title to match the original. However in style and overall effect it goes a few steps even further than the original. Though a bit low on chills, it is a highly evocative tale of the inner life of small girl haunted by loneliness and her own over-active imagination. No curse here, and no cat people monsters either. There is only poetry in its images.

An excellent and in-depth article about Lewton's career here. Reviews and information about some of his other films here.

4 comments:

puccinio said...

Although Lewton was a great producer, it has to be said that his best films were the ones he made with Jacques Tourneur who was one of America's greatest artists and one of the most experimental film-makers of all time. Actually their films are avant-garde movies marketed as horror films. Something which few critics realized at the time.

Tourneur also directed exemplary films like ''Canyon Passage'', ''Stars In My Crown'', ''Out of the Past'' and other such movies. And besides Lewton was a great producer precisely because he didn't interfere with the film during production and actually never set foot on the film set until it was finished.

Lewton was smart in that he was able to make films on a low budget with limited resources and make them quickly along with being a great screenwriter.

Their collaboration in terms of creepiness and fantasy has only one rival in American Cinema - Laughton's first and greatest film and overall they are second only to Bunuel in transgressing fantasy and reality.

Compared to them, Davids Lynch and Cronenberg are brightly decorated funhouses in theme parks.

puccinio said...

By the way watch ''I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE'', it's the greatest adaptation of ''Jane Eyre'' in cinema history.

Alok said...

I have seen only Out of the Past which is one of my personal favourites. He could tell the entire story just by showing shadows on the wall.

The Curse of the Cat People directed by Gunther Fritsch and Robert Wise is also equally beautiful and very evocative and atmospheric. It is indeed rare for a film producer to leave such personal imprint on a project. I will try to find and watch I walked with a zombie and other RKO-Val Lewton movies too.

dan visel said...

You know, there's a very nice little piece by John Ashbery about Val Lewton's The Seventh Victim in his Selected Prose; it's called "On Val Lewton's The Seventh Victim". The film is kind of a mess, but Ashbery finds things to like in it - and it makes you wish he did more film criticism.