A Brief, Strange, and Semi-Erotic History of David Bowie’s “Cat People (Putting Out Fire)”

The original horror movie about cat people that’s not the CATS remake.

EDIT: Happy 73rd Birthday, David Bowie!

In 1942, French director Jacques Tourneur directed a film using by DeWitt Boden with the eponymous name Cat People.

Would you believe me if I told you that a movie made in 1942 called Cat People had some deleterious portrayals of women and human sexuality?: “The plot focuses on a Serbian fashion illustrator in New York City who believes herself to be descended from a race of people who shape shift into panthers when sexually aroused or angered.” Oh dear.

Nonetheless, the film is considered pioneer of the horror genre and cinematography.

40 years later, legendary American film writer and director Paul Schrader directed an early 80s update of Cat People with some huge 70s and 80s players: Nastassja Kinski, Malcolm McDowell, and John Heard. The 1982 version of Cat People is described as an “erotic horror” on Wikipedia (if the appearance of Malcolm McDowell didn’t tip you off to the kind of party this is).
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Are You There?: Nick Cave’s The Red Hand Files

Nick Cave soothes the masses with a cosmic wisdom and tenderness in The Red Hand Files.

“It seems to me, that if we love, we grieve. That’s the deal.” -Nick Cave

Grief is an isolating experience. Even if one has experienced grief, it is a state that is challenging to wholly fathom unless you are in the midst of it. The pull of grief is hypnotic and suffocating. So much that even when experience grief collectively, we are like an archipelago: we see each other and share a similar existence, but we are, until the passage of time and acceptance, our own island.

felix_gonzales_torres_untitled_empy_bed
Felix Gonzales-Torres, Untitled. 1991. Source: https://artmuseum.princeton.edu/art/exhibitions/1576

While grief and isolation are a part of the human experience at times, we are not meant to live in isolation or permanent grief.  This is one reason why John Donne’s “No Man is an Island” is still so relevant over 400 years later:

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

As we continue our hurtle towards singularity and secularism, it can be difficult to remain anchored, let alone find an anchor that supports us in our grief or times of isolation. No wonder we are, at times, so hungry for some type of opiate.

We seek out anchors in our family, friends, community, religion, activities, and idols. Myself, I find great solace in physical activity and sage wisdom (a la Mr. Roger’s “helpers” but for adults). I find much respite from isolation and grief in someone who has publicly wrestled with their own grief: Nick Cave.

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Death Was Here

Before there was punk, there were three black brothers in Detroit making noise in a band called Death.

It’s a tenuous time for white privilege in the United States. Black people in the U.S., quite frankly, busted ass over the course of hundreds of years to go from being literal property to owning property and being able to (kind of?) vote and use the same public and private buildings, services, and- Lord have mercy- water fountains as white people (among a host of other things that will take up roughly 30 posts if not more; don’t get me going on environmental justice and food deserts). In 2014, bleeding heart liberal white people like myself were reminded by the police perpetrated murder of black teenager Michel Brown of just how far we hadn’t and haven’t come. Two years  after the murder of Michael Brown, white liberals and many, if not most, people of color and poor people were all delivered another swift kick to the balls when reality star and really shit businessman Donald Trump was elected “democratically” to lead the U.S.

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Appreciation: That Real Big Frickin’ Weirdo Mike Patton

What is it? It’s it.

I talk about 18/19 year old me a lot because 18/19 year old me was so so adorable and so exciting and also so so stupid in the way late teens/young adults are.

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