Monday, May 17, 2010

Pocket notebook sighting: Cat People

[“It’s my duty to remember. I have it all here.” Psychiatrist Louis Judd (Tom Conway) makes notes with a Sheaffer Balance fountain pen as Irena Dubrovna Reed (Simone Simon) describes her condition.]

Cat People (dir. Jacques Tourneur, 1942) is a terrifying delight, full of shadows and implications — and a pocket notebook. Irena Dubrovna fears that she is a descendant of her Serbian village’s cat-people and will turn into a panther if stirred by deep passion. Thus she refuses even a kiss from her brand-new, all-American, right-as-rain husband, naval architect Oliver Reed (Kent Smith), who is trying his best to keep this impossible marriage afloat. But it’s complicated: Oliver’s co-worker Alice Moore (Jane Randolph) is deeply in love with him. Irena doesn’t like that at all.

Cat People reminds me of Stanley Kubrick’s Killer’s Kiss (1955) and Herk Harvey’s Carnival of Souls (1962), two more low-budget masterpieces that tell their stories with great economy of means and and maximum visual interest. Here’s my favorite shot from Cat People, Alice and Oliver standing by a light table as a panther stalks them in their office. Three cheers for cinematographer Nicholas Musuraca.

Other pocket notebook sightings
Angels with Dirty Faces : Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne : Extras : Journal d’un curé de campagne : The House on 92nd Street : The Palm Beach Story : Pickpocket : Pickup on South Street : Red-Headed Woman : Rififi : The Sopranos : Spellbound

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