A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Friday, September 25, 2015

Cat People (Jacques Tourneur, 1942)


Cat People is so fraught with subtext about the fear of female sexuality that it's amazing that critics once treated it as a mere "horror movie," while admitting that it was an effective one. Starting with the image drawn by Irena (Simone Simon) of a panther impaled on a sword, which is a version of the even more phallocentric statue in her apartment, it's clear that Tourneur, screenwriter DeWitt Bodeen, and producer Val Lewton have more on their minds (or subsconsciousnesses) than just spooking the audience. But then subtext was about the only way filmmakers could get away with sex under the Production Code, even when the point is that Irena and her husband (Kent Smith) are not having sex because she's afraid she'll rip him to shreds if they so much as kiss. I'm not a big fan of the horror films produced by Lewton, one of the few producer-auteurs, partly because they're more fun to talk about than to watch. The casting of such vapid actors as Kent Smith doesn't help.

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