If massive internet outage strikes this week, inadvertently cutting off our steady stream of grumpy and naked cat images, it’s a relief to know that in Brooklyn there will still be ample opportunity to experience feline curiosities in analog formats at BAMcinématek in Fort Greene and at the Morbid Anatomy Museum in Gowanus.
13 Cats at BAMcinématek
Through November 3, BAMcinématek is screening the film series 13 Cats — “gruesome kitty classics” — that imaginatively delve into the unsettling compulsions and darker impulses of our domestic companions.
The series opened last Friday to a packed house for the 1977 Japanese cult curiosity Hausu, directed by Nobuhiko Obayahshi.
In this sometimes baffling, fever dream of a movie, a gaggle of schoolgirls descends on a creepy home where they are ruthlessly stalked by a white fluffy cat aptly named Blanche, who sets murderous activities into motion with the flash of her evil eye.
The filmgoer, who endures the mild stretches of boredom in this film, is amply rewarded with eye-popping animation and green screen sequences as well as a number of inventive murders, including death by watermelon, mattress, and piano.
If you’re looking for film scenes to project on the walls of your haunted house party, I highly recommend sections of this film (you can find it on YouTube) including a musical number in which bloody fingers, violently torn from the hands of the schoolgirl pianist, continue to tinkle the ivories on their own.
Hausu was a promising start to a showcase of rarely screened 35mm films that include Two Evil Eyes (1990) a collaboration between masters of gore Dario Angento and George Romero, each directing an adaptation of an Edgar Allen Poe story, with Harvey Keitel as a cat murder turned fancy feast.
Kaneto Shino’s Kuroneko (1968) is horror fantasy set in medieval Japan where vengeance strikes in the form of a feline spirit with stunning visual effects shot in black and white on wide screen (Oct 28 and Nov 2).
On October 29, you can catch both versions of Cat People. Jaques Tourneur’s original 1942 Freudian horror film is set in New York City where a Serbian emigre, believing she’s a descendant of ancient villagers who once made a deal with the devil, tries to repress her sexual passion in order to avoid turning into a wild cat.
In Paul Schrader’s 1982 remake, the sex and gore is amped up as the action shifts to New Orleans, starring Natassja Kinski with music by Georgio Moroder.
The series winds down with the 1934 film Black Cat, which stars Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff in a sadomasochistic expressionistic Poe adaptation (showing October 30).
The last film in the series is The Shadow of the Cat (1961) from the British purveyors of horror Hammer Films, featuring inventive camera work from a very angry cat’s point of view.
Taxidermy: Art, Science, & Immortality at the Morbid Anatomy Museum
In the recently published book Cat Wars: The Devastating Consequences of a Cuddly Killer, Peter Mara and Chris Santella describe the real life environmental devastation done by the feral population house cats who in North America alone are estimated to kill over a billion birds a year.
In Victorian England the taxidermist Walter Potter, known for his intricate, anthropomorphic tableaus of animals, often got the birds for his work from people who found them killed by the local cats. In late 19th century England, spaying and neutering were not widely practiced and unwanted kittens were commonly drowned.
Potter also found a creative use for this material by putting together tableaux of kittens engaged in daily human activities like pouring a cup of tea. Potter’s masterwork, The Kittens’ Wedding is on display as the main attraction of the exhibition Taxidermy: Art, Science, & Immortality at the Morbid Anatomy Museum in Gowanus (through November 6).
The kittens, standing upright and dressed in their Sunday best, are forever focused on the kitten bride and groom. The happy union is presided over by a kitten vicar. The kitten guests observe the timeless nuptial with serious, skeptical, and yes, grumpy expressions. Much like a kitty slasher film
Much like a kitty slasher film, the Kittens’ Wedding oscillates uncomfortably between adorable and gruesome.
Perhaps Potter’s kittens, lovingly arranged in anthropomorphic situations, can be considered the Victorian predecessor to our beloved internet cats. From the sacred Egyptian cat to the Nyan cat with the pop tart body and rainbow trail, cats have been a source of fascination for thousands of years.
It is said that cats sleep anywhere from 16-20 hours a day. And their air of mystery may be one of the many the qualities that draw us to them. Even Hillary Clinton understands the urge to decompress and “just look at cat GIFs”.
Our fascination for these felines will not disappear anytime soon.
The Exhibition Rundown: Taxidermy: Art, Science & Immortality featuring Walter Potter’s Kittens’ Wedding
When: Through Sunday, November 6, 12pm-6pm everyday. Closed Tuesdays.
Where: Morbid Anatomy Museum, 424 3rd Avenue at 7th Street in Gowanus
What: This exhibition seeks to illuminate the strange and profound human connection to preserved animals through the exhibition of seldom-seen taxidermied treasures from private collections. The centerpiece of the exhibition will be The Kittens’ Wedding, the final and perhaps most unforgettable of all of the works of Walter Potter, completed in the 1890s. Equal parts perverse and adorable, and utterly spellbinding, The Kittens’ Wedding transcends kitsch through its tenderness and sensitive attention to detail. The Kittens’ Wedding was created by Walter Potter, a self-trained British Victorian country taxidermist best remembered for a series of anthropomorphic tableaux in which he posed stuffed animals such as kittens, rabbits and squirrels as if engaging in human activities. These works were exhibited for nearly 150 years until the museum he founded was divided at auction in 2003. The pieces then moved the homes of private collectors around the world, most of them never shown since.
How much: Admission to the exhibition & library is $12. Seniors and students are $8, and children 12 and under are free.
The Film Series Rundown: 13 Cats
When: Through Thursday, November 3. See schedule for times and showings.
Where: BAMcinématek, 30 Lafayette Avenue, Fort Greene
How much: Pricing and ticket information available here.