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Director Paul Schrader's dreamlike, stylishly atmospheric remake of Val Lewton's 1942 horror classic needs to be taken on its own terms: viewers who assent to its Freudian logic and creepy sexuality will likely be entranced, but just a little critical distance renders the whole thing
irretrievably ludicrous. The Cat People, latterday descendants of Africans shamans who mated with leopards, look like ordinary humans, but they have the disconcerting trait of turning into ravening beasts during moments of stress--or, crucially, orgasm. Two of their kind--Irena (Nastassja Kinski)
and her long-lost brother Paul (Malcolm McDowell)--find each other in New Orleans. Irena, terrified of her own potential, shuns sex, but Paul is given to picking up streetwalkers and ripping them to shreds. While Paul struggles to repress an incestuous longing for his sister, Irena falls in love
with an unsuspecting zookeeper (John Heard). Inevitably, the triangle collapses in spectacular fashion. Ludicrous or not, CAT PEOPLE is gorgeous to behold, due mostly to cinematographer John Bailey's marvelous detailed rendering of New Orleans in autumn. Giorgio Moroder's moody score, with an
assist from David Bowie, is prized among soundtrack cultists.