This film presents a unique, but rather confusing concept. The film revolves around two women who lead separate lives, have no immediate connection with other, are not related to each other, but not only are they physically identical, but somehow they have an emotional bond that transcends all physical boundaries, and they also appear to meet their end in the same way. In all honesty, that premise doesn't make any sense at all, but does allow for some distractingly beautiful film-making. As for the film's two main characters, the dual roles are played rather convincingly by the film's lead actress Irène Jacob, who drifts through the two roles like feathers caught in the wind. Her performances of the two characters almost mirror each other, although the script offers some slight differences between the two. Despite this being a foreign-language film, I felt I could get quite engrossed in the film's atmosphere, mainly because the film illustrates a kind of poetic communication that, I must admit, is pretty much impossible for me to describe in a way that doesn't make me sound like a gibbering lunatic. It's a beautiful film in terms of both visuals and acting, but I find that the film is hampered by a directionless plot. It relies very heavily on the presence of its main protagonist, but it leaves behind a major paradox that it doesn't even try to resolve, despite there being ample time in which to resolve it. Thankfully, this is the kind of film that emphasizes on atmosphere and immersion rather than plot. If the film lacked any semblance of atmosphere, then it would have been a masterstroke in the fine art of boredom. On the topic of atmosphere, the film does a brilliant job at presenting and conveying atmosphere, and as I could mention several times by now, the film's mesmerizing atmosphere is its biggest strength because it distracts the viewer from a muddled plot. The film's fixation on music is something else to consider. Both the main characters are involved in music in some way (one a choir soprano and the other a music teacher), and the film makes heavy use of a haunting orchestral score. To be honest though, the film feels more to me like a painting than a film. That said, however, the film-makers seem to be aiming for the same kind of delicacy in their film-making technique as would be called for in the context of fine art painting. That's certainly the impression I get from the film's subtle blend of colours. Despite its flaws, I find that this film can and should be taken as a film of many interconnected characteristics. The story will most likely raise more questions that the director was inclined to answer, but it offers a rewarding package of fragility, beauty, intimacy and mystery within the frame of a subjective narrative. If you're not thinking about where every little detail fits, you'll probably be immersed in the vivid and often mystical trip the film seems to offer.
Right from the beginning, this film seemed like a very interesting film, and in all honesty, it is. I've heard that this is a loose adaptation of an older film of the same name, but I'm not here to compare the two, especially since I find this one more interesting. This film tries its best to be a different kind of horror film, with a narrative centring on a kind of mystique, and with an approach that emphasizes on skin rather than blood. That being said, however, despite the director's best efforts, the film finds itself in a bit of a bind in terms of direction. As a horror film, it's way too subtle to yield any direct chills, which would have worked well alongside its subtler fare, but its biggest problem is the plot. It opens with a scene that shows a woman being sacrificed to a leopard, and eventually transitions into the modern day setting, and for a time, the plot is pretty hard to follow. Eventually, you start hearing about the race of werecats, which explain the various leopard-related killings seen throughout the film, and even then, it's a good concept, but it's not executed very well. In this regard, I think this is because the film hides too much of what you might need to know. On the plus side, the film paces itself for long enough to create a level of intrigue that drives the plot forward. In a sense, the film is driven by mystique, and it's filled with surprises along the way, including the film's unexpected ending. The characters deliver good performances, but they don't do a lot to grab attention. The film's two lead characters, however, outperform all the others in the film, delivering splendid performances that are often as slick as the feline forms they often assume. In a way, the film illustrates the overall character of the film - slick yet animalistic. This character is also illustrated in how the film presents itself. The production values are fairly standard stuff for their time, but the film truly shines when day turns to night. The film also sports a lovely electronic soundtrack that creates a nice atmosphere for the film. Of course, the film opens with the signature song "Cat People", composed specifically for the film by David Bowie, whose music and vocals set a haunting mood for the opening scene of the film. One other thing that interests me about the film is its blending of horror with erotic fiction. This approach attempts to bring out a sense of primal, animalistic energy, and this was even reflected on the film's tagline ("an erotic fantasy of the animal in us all"). I'd say they've accomplished this with a lot of subtlety, to the point of it being artsy. I could also argue that the film's use of nudity as a primarily symbolic element is another accomplishment, especially as it is contrasted with the sudden gore scenes. It's very stylish and artsy, but it suffers because it's too subtle, and if you look at it seriously, it tends to come across as quite ridiculous softcore porn.
This seemed like a somewhat ambitious project for both director Wes Craven and leading man Eddie Murphy. For Wes Craven, this was surely an opportunity to experiment with a more comedic direction, and for Eddie Murphy, it was an opportunity to play an uncharacteristically serious role. However, the end result struggles in its attempts to straddle horror and comedy, and there isn't a lot of balance in either approach. The premise is closely similar to Interview with the Vampire, but the film itself is decidedly less subtle in its execution of the central concept. It's not too bad, but they didn't try very hard in terms of actually realizing the concept, but at least the lead character is a lot more likable than in that other film, in my personal opinion at least. I was actually quite surprised by how straightforward the film was at the beginning. You see Eddie Murphy trying to pull off a variation of the Dave Vanian look while ripping a guy's heart out of his chest, and later on, he disguises himself as two other characters. One of them is a hilarious parody of the stereotypical loud preacher, who proceeds to give the best speech in the whole movie. The other one, however, is an awkwardly stereotypical Italian-American character whose performance tends to be rather hit or miss. The acting tends to be quite corny, but not bad enough that it's extremely off-putting. It would be somewhat decent if this were a made-for-TV film, but for a film intended for the cinema, there's a lot of ways in which it seems like they cut corners wherever they could. As usual, Eddie Murphy steals the show, but this time it's because he's trying to do something totally different to what we'd expect from him. Rather than try to be funny, Eddie's trying to play his character totally straight, and it's a bold attempt, but more often than not, it can turn into a comedic performance rather than a serious one, probably because of the film's unintentionally campy approach to its subject matter. The production values don't look very good, and unfortunately it's one of those films where the dark aesthetic style tends to make the film look murky rather than dark. However, sometimes there are scenes that manage to pull off a nice atmospheric quality, and I suppose the special effects aren't totally bad, but it's nothing worth grabbing a bucket of popcorn for. To me, the biggest problem is that they tried to market it as a more comedic horror film, when throughout the film a more serious horror direction tends to prevail. Then again, I doubt this would have been taken seriously if they marketed it as a straight-up horror film. Whatever the case, the result might have been the same no matter what the producers did. To me, despite it being derivative of other vampire films, this film actually might have had some potential, but it's the rather clumsy direction that ruins everything.
Does anyone remember The Wizard of Oz, along with its whimsical setting and characters, and catchy musical numbers? If you do, then this "spiritual prequel" will seem all the more shallow. All the charm that the old film had will literally melt before your eyes, washed away in a sea of standardized CGI. Wasting no time, the film starts off as an exercise of pretentious imitation, trying to imitate the style of an old-fashioned nickelodeon screen in some ham-fisted attempt at realism that has little to do with the actual plot at large. Eventually, the screen adjusts to normal size and the film transitions to bright and vivid colours. One immediate problem is that it's impossible root for the hero, if he can be called such. The fact that the Wizard of Oz is being played by the terribly unlikable James Franco is the least of our problems. In this film, the Wizard of Oz is a complete jerk. He's a con artist (like all stage magicians), he's a trashy womaniser, he takes credit for tricks he had pulled off by dumb luck, and on top of that, he's only in it for the money. In one scene where he's in the castle treasury, and when he's asked if he wants to defeat the wicked witch, he accepts, but not before looking at the gleaming pile of gold he'll get. It doesn't help that the actor portraying him is a pretty bad actor, as shown be his passionless and unenthusiastic performance of the main character. The whole cast is filled with talentless hacks, or at best, actors who try to be successful but always get overshadowed by bigger stars. And of course, for all the film's ambition, if it has Zach Braff in it, it's generally not a good sign, though to Zach's credit, his character in the movie showed more lively enthusiasm for the role than James Franco does for his. There were very few characters in the film that didn't make me cringe. It seems to me that a lot more time and effort went into making the film look nice and pretty as opposed to writing something decent. No wonder they couldn't get any good actors for this film. In the film's defence, the visuals in Oz were quite nice, and the special effects were polished, but that's pretty much the only nice thing I can say about this film. The only notably entertaining scene in the whole movie was the climactic final fight. The rest of the movie was two boring hours of bad acting. It's literally The Wizard of Oz through a conventional Hollywood fantasy filter, and the end result is a soulless star vehicle for James Franco. Then again, it would terribly naïve to expect anything good from the same person who made the Spider-Man films, and it's a pretty bizarre turn of events when the Spider-Man movie was an absolute pain to watch, and yet this film is somehow worse. If anything, this film represents a commercialized distortion of fantasy that has somehow become the normal perception of fantasy in the minds of Hollywood producers. If that's not a sign of how bad things are in Hollywood, then I don't know what is.
If you were looking for a film that encapsulated everything wrong with 1980's pop culture, then you needn't look further. In fact, you only need to look at the poster for the film in order to get some idea of the vanity that it represents, but if you actually watch the film, you'll find that the look is only a small part of the plastic nightmare. Only a minute into the film do things start going hideously wrong. Apparently the premise involves a woman from Ancient Egypt who prays to the gods to escape an unwanted marriage, but this prologue is riddled with anachronisms. The writer clearly didn't do any research, because not only does the film assume that women in ancient Egypt acted the same way they did in 1987, but also that they spoke in English with American accents. Of course, this is because rom-com writers never do any research, and have a collective assumption that the viewers are morons, but the prologue is the least of our problems. After the insultingly stupid prologue, the film treats as to an animated title sequence. It's the same strategy used in the film Grease, and it's just as inefficacious in this film, if not more so because the animation style shown here looks cheap and outdated, and doesn't seem to have any relation with the actual plot of the film. The story itself is a marathon of rom-com clichés, but somehow the film comes across as even creepier version of Splash. The story also makes no logical sense whatsoever, and only seems to raise an uncomfortable number of questions, mainly the question of "why on Earth would anyone be sexually attracted to a mannequin?" That's the central question, and that the writer seems to have no interest in answering that. What follows are the ninety of the most unbearably stupid and unspeakably lousy minutes of movie history, featuring all manner of stock characters, and all the ugliest examples of popular 80's fashion. For a movie made on a moderate budget, the film looks as though the producers used every cheap production trick in the book, even going so low as to use cheap transition wipes throughout the film. The actors themselves weren't all bad, but the dialogue is extremely clumsy, and the script is a bigger joke than the many failed jokes you're bound to find in the film. I'd say that the music was the only tolerable part of the movie, but then again, the kind of music you hear in Mannequin was absurdly common in the 1980's, and I'm beginning to suspect that it was commonly employed in movies of lesser quality, some of which practically survive in the consciousness of public culture only because of the music. Sadly, Mannequin is one of those, but that's the more merciful way of looking at it. This film must have been garbage when it was new, but it's far worse than simply that. It's a soulless product of the brand of committee thinking that dominated the 1980's. It's not just horribly written, it's shoddily produced, and so inanely stupid that it might cause your brain to melt in boredom. However I say it, it's one of the worst movies ever made.