Repertory Picks

Jacques Tourneur Strikes Fear in New York

Tomorrow, as part of the opening night of the three-week-long retrospective Jacques Tourneur, Fearmaker, New York’s Film Society of Lincoln Center will scare up a screening of the director’s masterpiece Cat People. The chilling tale of a fashion designer (Simone Simon) who discovers that when her passions flare she turns into a panther on the prowl, this creature feature was the first of three iconic B movies that Tourneur made with producer Val Lewton at RKO Pictures in the 1940s. A master of chiaroscuro, the director, with the help of cinematographer Nicholas Musuraca, shrouded a number of Cat People’s most terrifying moments in the shadows, tapping into the power of suggestion in a way that would have a lasting influence on the horror genre. As critic Geoffrey O’Brien writes in his essay for our release, much of the movie’s terror lies in its refusal to shed light on all of its mysteries. “Cat People’s most famous gesture—keeping the object of dread concealed in the shadows, and trusting to the human impulse to people the dark with the most unspeakable fears—is only the most blatant of the many ways in which the film leaves spaces deliberately blank,” O’Brien writes.

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