Cat People


I'm torn. On one hand, I love the grim, frosty atmosphere of 1942's Cat People. On the other hand, I find said film to be disaffecting and hard to plug into. As a general rule, I'm a fan of Val Lewton-produced chillers, especially when they are directed by Jacques Tourneur. I regard I Walked With a Zombie as a bonafide classic. But for whatever reason, I couldn't warm up to Cat People. The plot follows a seductive artist who believes that her Siberian heritage has made her susceptible to turning into a feline creature. It's a hard story to summarize. Simone Simon is enchanting as the tacit, mysterious Irena Reed. She makes for a superb cat lady. Kent Smith gives a strong performance as the concerned husband. The acting is fine. So what's my problem?

Maybe it's the glacial pace, but I was never involved in the proceedings. I wasn't invested in the characters, and when you're not invested in the characters, you're not going to care about what happens to them. Usually when this occurs, it's the film's fault, but I think it was my state of mind. If I had more time (and less unopened DVD's staring at me), I'd watch it again before writing about it. I do recognize why Cat People is lauded by fans and stuffy critics alike. The B&W cinematography is beautiful, the tension is palpable, and the characterizations run deep. On a negative note, things move slower than they probably should. It takes awhile to get to the "swimming pool" scene, which is the only bit of action we get (great friggin' scene, though!).

Tomorrow, I'm hitting the sequel, and later this month, I'm hitting the remake. Hopefully, I'll have more luck with other cat people. I guess they can't all be Sleepwalkers. Yes, that was a joke.

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