Sunday, March 4, 2012

Comica Obscura: Fritz the Cat rebuttal

For a better appreciation of the article that follows, please read Bill's review of Fritz the Cat from last week. 
After two weeks in which our respective reviews and rebuttals made no qualms about where we each stood with regards to The Rocketeer and Sword of Vengeance, two examples for which our opinions diverged on some important issues, it seems safe to say that with the third film we arrived at very similar conclusions.

I think that, after reading your review a couple of times, perhaps what struck me the most about the entire article is the introductory tag line you use: 'The third film in the Comica Obscura Marathon is all adult and stuff!' That phrase, especially the way it is constructed, sums up the intellectual qualities of Ralph Bakshi's Fritz the Cat film quite adequately. There are no characters not any storyline that would suit the young ones, that much should be obvious. However, there are movies which are very much adult-minded and then there are movies that are 'all adult and stuff.' Fritz the Cat, by my estimation, is very much the latter. Being 'all adult and stuff' does not imply any tongue in cheek or irony, mind you. Truth be told, Bakshi, and by definition the character's original creator Robert Crumb, had some very poignant ideas about the way the United States, culturally and politically at least, operated in the 1960s and 1970s. They viewed their country, the most revered country in the entire world, through vastly different spectacles than those people in powerful positions would have wanted audiences to see. That must count for something and I do that in the end it does, in truth, count for something. There are many ways to approach such a delicate topic, but Crumb and Bakhsi take the 'all adult and stuff' route, which speaks to the sort of characters readers and viewers encountered in the story.

As you put it yourself last week, the movie is a little all over the place with its stabs at counter-culture movements and ideologies. The film, so far as you and I could tell, cares very little for what others will think of its spastic narrative or the up and down mood shifts it goes through. It is a decidedly odd beast because as a cartoon it sometimes embraces some more loony scenarios which are permitted in the world of animation, but it will blanket those moments with brash, uncompromising socio-political statements. Even an entire weak after watching the film, I myself am still uncertain as to how good the film actually is, if it is good at all. The most important argument you made last week pertained to the notion that Fritz, in its deliberate attempt to argue that the world is not as simple as most would prefer to believe, yet goes about doing that by embracing the most broad, tired generalizations and stereotypes (hence 'all adult and stuff': trying to make genuinely pertinent arguments but in petty and immature fashion). You made that point as an example of one of the film's weaknesses and I feel compelled to agree with that. The only manner in which I can accept Fritz as a strong piece of animation cinema is if it is meant to be taken lightly. By that I refer to the idea that one can accept that Fritz is bitter about many serious issues that plagued the United States then (and still today), but has chosen to voice its opinion through, oftentimes, the most ridiculous means. At a certain point it becomes impossible to take the film too seriously, otherwise the director and creator of the source material can come across as being complicit in the stereotyping. But then, if they are not, what are they doing other than venting anger and cynicism? I guess that is where my own biggest issue with the picture lies, something I perhaps did not make clear enough last week. My own review was not glowing, nor was it especially negative, just right down the middle. Still, besides being cynical, what is it Bakshi wants to accomplish? I guess I would have felt a bit better had the movie tried to do something else beyond simply point at a bunch of people, Fritz included, and yell: you're all stupid! Maybe part of that has to do with the time at which the story was written and when the film adaptation was made.

In any event, Fritz the Cat to me seems content to sit alone in its corner and wag its finger at a series of cultures and ideas that permeated the American landscape some decades ago. As I wrote last week, it will not win a significant amount of fans that way, but nor does it seem to concern itself with that either. Maybe the joke is on those audience members who genuinely thought the film has something incredibly profound and powerful to say, those, who felt that Fritz is really smart in his half ass attempts at breaking new ground and experiencing new things. 


1 comment:

Bill Thompson said...

Yeah, we're pretty much in agreement when it comes to the faults of Fritz the Cat. I still think it's an interesting movie, but not one that completely works.

Either way, I have a feeling that the upcoming movies, especially the last one, are going to lead to some differences in opinion. :)