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January 09, 2014

Brutalization

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Because of the Cats
Fons Rademakers - 1973
One 7 Movies Region 0 DVD

Five years before making Because of the Cats, Fons Rademakers had an acting gig on a film that also starred Alexandra Stewart. This was also an English language production with an eye towards the international market. The Dutch full title is Bezeten - Het gat in de muur. The English language title is Obsessions. The film was directed by Pim de la Parra, and was, in fact, the first Dutch film made in English, paving the way for other Dutch filmmakers hoping for a taste of commercial success. For some reason, that film is lost, or locked away in a vault, yet it would seem to be exactly the kind of film that someone would want to put out on DVD. There are a couple of good reasons why a Dutch film that advertised itself as being in the mode of Alfred Hitchcock would be ripe for rediscovery - the soundtrack is by Hitchcock's most famous musical collaborator, Bernard Herrmann, while the screenplay was partially the work of a struggling young filmmaker named Martin Scorsese. The reason why Scorsese was in Amsterdam in the first place was to shoot a sexual fantasy scene for his own debut film, Who's that Knocking on My Door, in order to get a distribution deal with exploitation distributor Joseph Brenner. It was also Brenner who distributed Because of the Cats in the U.S.

Brutalization is the DVD cover title given to Rademaker's film. I guess the distributors figured, perhaps rightly, that people would think that Because of the Cats would be a movie about animals, with little commercial appeal. The film is more or less being sold here as a home invasion type thriller, along the lines of Last House on the Left. Those looking for a film starring Sylvia Kristel might well be disappointed to know that she has a small, though important, supporting role. I will from this point refer to the film by its original title, discussing what is actually on the screen.

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Flickering briefly as an X rated exploitation film in a few U.S. movie theaters, Because of the Cats serves as an example of commercial European cinema in the early Seventies. The source material is a novel by the respected and popular Nicolas Freeling, part of his series of detective Van der Valk. The sex and nudity were part of the zeitgeist of the time. The film also comes at a midpoint in Rademakers directorial career, roughly between his debut film, which happened also to be the first Dutch film up for an Oscar, and his 1986 film, The Assault, which was the first Dutch film to win the coveted prize for a foreign language film.

A gang of young men, all well dressed in tailored black suits, vandalize a house in Amsterdam, and when discovered by the home owners, rape the wife while her husband helplessly looks on. Van der Valk is unofficially on the case, with clues leading to a small, seaside town. It doesn't take him long to figure out who the perps are, but finding proof is more of a challenge. While searching for clues, the detective finds time to be with a high priced prostitute, and banter with the restauranteur who owns a pet raven.

Animals do figure in the story. What happens to some cats in this film may well be considered more disturbing than the rape scene that sets up the plot. Some of the philosophical aspects that motivate the young men and women probably appear even more nonsensical than they did forty years ago. For a guy whose job it is to enforce the law, Van der Valk has a relatively fluid sense of morality. For those more interested in visceral pleasures, there is a generous amount of female nudity, as well as some male nudity including star Bryan Marshall. For those looking for glimpses of Sylvia Kristel, you might have to look elsewhere, but Alexandra Stewart provides an eyeful. Curiously, Kristel and Stewart worked together a few years later when Kristel portrayed the role that made her internationally famous, in Goodbye Emmanuelle.

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Posted by peter at January 9, 2014 07:22 AM