Surreal narratives meet logical ones in a menagerie of madness.
Cat People is a movie of preconception and assumption – one that tasks its audience and characters with choosing to believe (or not) its central character’s claims. Much of the film argues for the dreamlike state of the proceedings despite the narrative pushing forward despite the increasing strangeness of it all.
Tracy Cox’s video essay calls this a “meshwork”. The narrative and character psychologies are addressed in the story, but the level beneath the story – the strange wilderness of image and sound – follows different rules.
This intermeshing of traditional storytelling and avant-garde impressionism in the same film (all in 1942) was an impactful moment for experimental filmmakers, or filmmakers that wanted to inject a bit more stylistic bravado into their work than their contemporaries. Director Jacques Tourneur continued to make odd movies (some starring Vincent Price) that would delight fans of the obscure.