Cats ★★★★

Everybody makes fun of Hooper, but by now it should be obvious that he makes truly eccentric cinema not by chance but out of conviction. Even a very bad film like THE DANISH GIRL almost comes alive if one manages to disconnect the interplay of overwhelming painterliness and carnevalesque performances from any notion of a social reality. Here, of course, we're in the realm of the aesthetic gaze from start to finish. This might just be the film he was born to make.

To be sure, I was susceptible to all those charms from the start - the trailer already was evidence not only of style, but of a willingness to commit to style no matter what. The cat designs indeed never lose their enchanting weirdness (I suspect the most important part are the sensuous human lips, flanked by whiskers), the choreography might be rather clumsy sometimes and the sets feel closed-off, but there's a different sparkle to every scene, a texture and variety modern effect films almost never have. Best all-out CGI in a non-Tsui-Hark-directed big budget film? Maybe an overreach, but even so: whoever makes fun of this deserves 1000 years of Disney rule.

So, going in I already expected to be pleased on some level. What I neither knew nor expected, though: CATS is a fucking great musical. The best thing about it might be the lack of plot. For once, we get a big budget effects film without any action-adventure hero's journey bullshit, Instead it's all about a cipher - slender, elegant and almost translucent - discovering a world of wonders. She enters a space of pure self-expression and finds happiness. (Sometimes I thought of, of all films, Hubert Franks 70s erotica extravaganza VANESSA... this might actually make for a nice double bill...)

"Born into nothing / At least you have something." How can one not be affected by this?

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