Cat People Reviews
Had some really cool ideas and a fair amount of nudity.
Its remake, a 1982 fear-fest directed by Paul Schrader and starring Nastassja Kinski, is similar in its ability to optically arouse but remain intrinsically hollow. Whereas 1942's "Cat People" stimulated our sights with hypnotizing darkness and noir-tinged doom, the 1982 version conversely stupefies with its richly saturated colors and sexual heat. The original had a small budget to work with, director Jacques Tourneur and cinematographer Nicholas Musuraca perhaps accidentally making things visually unmistakable for the purpose of making up for monetary deficiencies. But Schrader, given larger financial opportunity, is able to work on a much larger scale, providing us with a more plentiful plot, more ocular risks, more enigmatic intrigue. I can hardly say if it's superior to its '42 counterpart - they hardly resemble one another, one restrained, one indulgent - but "Cat People" is an artistically formidable fantasy mostly worthwhile. If its overwhelming inability to do anything besides look great wasn't such a pressing issue, it could be considered a masterpiece.
But the storyline doesn't allow us to become emotionally invested; conceptually marvelous yet unmistakably outlandish, it is difficult to do anything besides stare, mouth agape, unable to grab onto anything happening on the screen. Because it has to do with The Cat People, a race of centuries past so far evolved that, as of 1982, they resemble sexy humans who literally have an animal deep inside them. But things aren't as simple as they used to be: years ago, when The Cat People were still dominant cats that laboriously reclined on tree branches in windy red deserts (shown in the form of a prologue), mating would come in the form of a female sacrifice from a nearby village. Now, though, the race is almost completely extinct, save for Irena (Nastassja Kinski) and her brother, Paul (Malcolm McDowell).
In the first few minutes of "Cat People", the two are meeting for the very first time - and while the impish Irena, sensuous but virginal, remains an innocent figurehead, Paul makes for a more sinister presence, not because he's a Shakespearean villain in the making but because he's more aware of his heritage than Irena is. In everyday life, The Cat People look like anybody walking down the street; but when in the throes of an orgasm, they transform from sexy human to black panther, killing their human mate in the process. Paul understands his threat to society and isn't afraid to utilize it; Irena, on the other hand, is afraid to unleash the beast that resides within her.
The anxiety comes to a head, however, when she falls into the life of Oliver Yates (John Heard), a mild-mannered zookeeper who instantaneously bills her as the woman of his dreams. With her sexual nightmares looming in the background (and not to mention her brother, who wants to embark on an incestuous relationship like all Cat People before them), Irena just might have to accept who she is - at a price.
The plot is less preposterous the less you think about it; this is, after all, the kind of film that thrives on eccentric chills that trickle down the spine, expecting us to come along for the dangerous ride and forget about any sort of question we might have. Thanks to Schrader's knowing handling of the material (he treats most of "Cat People" like an erotic art house picture, which is more fitting than something akin to a more conventional horror movie), the film doesn't face many concerns when it comes to structure. The problem with "Cat People" is its futile characterizations, which allows for interesting characters more fascinating to look at than to actually care about. Irena is fearful for what will become of her, but because the screenplay is more interested in giving Kinski ample opportunity to smolder, never is the impression quite made; Paul is maleficent, but it's unclear where his villainy will go. And Oliver, taking over Kent Smith's role from the original, is drawn out blandly. The actors are all lensed brilliantly - it's a shame they all remain so one-dimensional than even the more erotic elements of "Cat People" are slightly unexciting.
But when John Bailey's cinematography isn't seducing our eyes, Kinski makes for the best thing about the film. A better actress than Simone Simon, she makes it impossible for us not to look at her; her full lips, sphinxy eyes, and Audrey Hepburn-like demeanor makes her a lithe sex object far too knowing to be exploited - she is magnificent. And for the most part, so is "Cat People". But it's so devoid of any kind of emotional interior that any sort of reaction is kept hidden. Fear? Arousal? Allure? It all wants to be there, but "Cat People" remains a devastatingly beautiful film without a heart.
Natassja Kinski brings her alluring presence which effortlessly blends with Malcom McDowell's sinister performance. The cinematic metaphors are a bit heavy-handed, but still effective.
Offering a glimpse at a New Orleans long gone, "Cat People" is great movie. The throbbingly incessant Giorgio Moroder score does not seem so much dated as appropriate within the context of this seething seedy movie. As David Bowie croons, this movie is "putting out fire with gasoline." ...and it is much fun to watch.
This movie is a remake(?) of the old 1940s movie, though with a lot more nudity and blood. Despite that, it still manages to feel like one of the old Universal horror films. It moves along slow and steady, unraveling the horror bit by bit instead of just going in for kill after kill. It's a good script with some nice visuals, using the New Orleans' setting to its advantage.
The only negative on this movie is its running time. It becomes very clear where the film is going and how it will end, yet it feels like it's about 20 minutes longer than it needed to be. Still, it's definitely worth checking out just for Kinski alone.
The film has a very surreal feel and esthetic thanks in part to the story but also do to some directing choices. All this while looking gorgeous thanks to cinematographer John Bailey.
This film isn't for everybody. Those looking for a scary film wont find it. Those looking for a surreal film would likely find it too mainstream and gory. Those looking for a gory horror movie might wonder why there's so much nudity... or you might rejoice in the skin. Everybody likes different things.
Cat People isn't my favourite film and not something I watch regularly but I do tend to like pulling it out once every few years or so... and giving Cat People a watch.