Tag Archives: Cat


DIRECTED BY: Miranda July

FEATURING: Miranda July, Hamish Linklater, David Warshofsky, Isabella Acres

PLOT: A thirtysomething couple decides to adopt a sick cat in one month, during which time they quit their jobs and try to find ways to make their lives more satisfying. The cat (named Paw-Paw) narrates part of the story from her veterinary hospital cage.

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Populated with just enough flights of fancy to warrant “eccentric” and offering a surprisingly bleak and realistic look at two people on the brink of nervous breakdown while in a crumbling relationship, The Future just isn’t strange enough for a spot on the List.

COMMENTS: Though it opens with the creepy, nasally voice-over of Paw-Paw the cat detailing its rescue by a kind couple, The Future spends most of its time with Sophie (July) and Jason (Linklater).  She is an “overqualified” dance teacher for young girls, he works from home accepting tech support calls.  When they decide to adopt a sick cat, their future spreads before them as nothing but caring for it and then reaching old age after it dies.  Sophie tries to motivate herself to make online dance videos but instead finds solace in an affair with a friendly sign-maker.  Jason becomes “open to everything,” accepting a volunteer position with an environmental group and befriending an elderly pack rat.  As Paw-Paw waits patiently, her soon-to-be owners flounder in the face of self-fulfillment with anxiety-ridden freakouts.

Known in the film world for her quirk-filled debut Me and You and Everyone We Know, writer and performance artist Miranda July is developing definite trademarks.  She once again employs experimental voice-over and somewhat stilted scripting for a portrait of white middle-class romance, but this time her characters are more realized and the emotions more focused.  As Sophie and Jason claw their way through individual bouts of near-insanity, a surprisingly touching story unfolds.  For the most part we are looking at this relationship from the outside in, seeing these characters more often apart than together.  Sophie’s uncertain relationship with sign-maker Marshall and Jason’s curious friendship with elderly chatterbox Joe offer insights unseen in their actual interactions with one another.

This is uncharacteristic for me but I actually found most of the “weirder” parts detrimental to the film overall.  The creepy cat narration and puppet paws feel irrelevant and clashing—it doesn’t move the story forward and it doesn’t increase my sympathy for the cat or the couple.  Sophie’s suddenly animated t-shirt also feels out of the blue.  The best offbeat technique is employed towards the end, when Jason literally stops time so he can sort out his feelings about Sophie’s infidelity, and ends up in a sad conversation with the moon.  It’s a neat trick and sets forth an interesting structure for that segment of the film, and serves to highlight Hamish Linklater—an actor often set in supporting roles—as a performer.

There’s a good amount of twee baggage weighing down The Future.  Some of July’s little touches of style and wry humor are fun, but many drag the focus away from the central story unnecessarily.  The writing and characterization just aren’t tight enough.  It is at times a beautiful and heartbreaking film, and even quite funny at others, but viewers need to wade through a lot of excess in order to hit upon the most effective points.


“‘The Future,’ July’s coy and precious new film, is just oddball enough to be interesting, if not good.” –Peter Rainer, Christian Science Monitor (contemporaneous)


DIRECTED BY: Paul Schrader

FEATURING: Nastassja Kinski, Malcolm McDowell, John Heard, Annette O’Toole, Ruby Dee,

PLOT: A young woman struggles with an ancient family curse while pursuing the purrfect mate.

Still from Cat People (1982)

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Cat People, loosely based on the Val Lewton original, is a slightly atypical, high quality horror film.  It is a variation of the old werewolf theme, focused on felines rather than canines.  It is not quite unconventional enough to be weird, but it has a strange feel compared to other horror movies.

COMMENTS: Orphaned, beautiful Irena (Kinski) comes to live with her brother Alex (McDowell) in his creepy new Orleans home, after being separated from him for years by the mysterious death of their parents.  Alex is a pastor at an even creepier chapel and he carries the burden of some rather odd baggage.  It seems that he is taken to roaming and prowling at night, climbing trees, clawing things up, wolfing down prostitutes, and getting himself locked in zoo cages.  Worse, he unceremoniously demands sex from the mousy Irena, who isn’t exactly keen on the idea.  It never occurs to poor Alex to try sprinkling some catnip on his business areas and begging to have his tummy scratched.

Irena discovers that if she rubs up against anybody besides Alex, she will turn into a puma—a carnivorous puma with an insatiable lust for rich, red, raw human flesh.  To become human again herself, she must feast on the living.  This is of course, quite understandable.  Few things are as disappointing as a menu of Fancy Feast, when one could be munching on a delicious man like John Heard (C.H.U.D.) or his lusty girlfriend Annette O’Toole (Smile).  Heard’s zookeeper character certainly gives Irena aplenty to purr about.  Irena falls in love with Heard, but will she be able to resist his charms—and the savory goodness of his tender, meaty loins and chops?  Then there’s the matter of that pesky girlfriend with the hair like red yarn.  She caterwauls her concerns surrounding Irena, and Irena wishes a cat had her tongue.  Hopefully she’s nothing a hiss and a swat can’t take care of.

Irena explores the French Quarter and her blossoming desires, and experiences some very unsettling biological changes when she’s in heat.  She becomes embroiled in a murder case as her brother stalks her, she stalks the girlfriend, chases after Heard, and Alex plays cat and mouse with the police.  Meanwhile Heard is quickly beginning to realize that toying with the supernatural is not always the cat’s meow.

Cat People is a very arty film with a distinctive visual pawprint featuring Big Easy location cinematography and some striking, unusual shots. There are some interesting ultraviolet night sequences filmed from a werecat’s point of view that are innovative for the date of release, putting the simple thermal imaging used in Wolfen to shame.  An original score by David Bowie and Girogio Moroder (Midnight Express) compliments the avant-garde look and feel of the film.  Well acted, Cat People is a pleasing change of pace from mediocre, industry standard horror movies.  It boasts an unusual, well-structured plot and a bizarre ending which nicely balances out the heavy compliment of cat shots.  And by cat shots, I mean very solid thespianism on the part of a couple of beautiful and charming black leopards (in addition to all the of naked supple human breasts, and full frontal nude footage of the spectacular specimen of feline-esque femininity, Nastassja Kinski, captured in her prime. Rowwwr!)


“The obscure proceedings are often ludicrous (especially in the orange-colored primal-dream sequences), yet you don’t get to pass the time by laughing, because it’s all so queasy and so confusingly put together…”–Pauline Kael, The New Yorker (contemporaneous)