Thursday, January 29, 2009

CURSE OF THE CAT PEOPLE (Robert Wise, 1944, USA) Amy subsumes the familial trauma, unspoken but inherent in her childlike sensibilities attuned to the deathly hallow, those arcane emotional relics of her parent’s past. The Goya painting is a shrine to Irena, a blasphemous vestige of a corrupt and violated soul; a sincere metaphor for her love cursed by demonic possession as Irena became victim of her own lineage. Oliver and Alice are now married, yet they choose to hang the painting in their house, though they supposedly burned all other evidence of their past affliction. Amy is lost in fantasy; she is cursed for being different from other children because she is too imaginative, and her parents struggle towards conformity and acceptance. The patriarchal order is upset as Amy witnesses her mother’s abusive argument with daddy: this is every child’s worst nightmare. She soon escapes and befriends a delusional old woman with a despotic daughter; the old lady gives her a wishing ring. After seeing an old photograph of Oliver’s first wife, her magic ring grants her an invisible friend…. Irena. This is not a horror film but a psychological study of childhood; the loss of innocence, how conformity is thief of our individuality, like a cat stealing the breath of imagination. But the film can also be read as a supernatural nexus between Amy and Irena’s salvation: cursed by a demon and summoned by the little girl’s purity, Irena may finally commit the one act that can save her own soul. As Amy wanders into the frozen night, the penumbra of nightmare chasing like stampeding hooves, she stumbles towards the neighbors house wherein dwells the demented daughter. As death walks the ghastly corridors of this archaic mansion, Amy’s trust is put into the hands of a murderer…but it’s Irena’s virtue that redeems the trinity. (C)

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