The third film in the Comica Obscura Marathon is all adult and stuff!
Screenplay By: Ralph Bakshi
Directed By: Ralph Bakshi
Fritz The Cat is an interesting film if I’ve ever seen one. From the film mind of Ralph Bakshi and the comic mind of Robert Crumb comes a counter culture X rated tale of debauchery, drugs, and destruction. The film plays like a fever dream induced by drug use, at least it plays like how I think a drug induced fever dream would. There’s no such thing as a consistent narrative to be found in Fritz The Cat, that sort of structure would not fit the state Mr. Bakshi wants to leave his audience in. All the same, I’m not sure if the film had the effect on me that Mr. Bakshi and company had been hoping for.
I appreciated the flowing dream presentation of most of the film. I even liked the allegorical representations that the anthropomorphized characters are supposed to be. The experience of the film is like Mr. Bakshi took late 60s-early 70s culture and tossed it into a blender with not a care in the world for how the final result tasted to others. The film is very convinced in what it wants to say and why it wants to say it, but the strength of the filmmakers conviction didn’t sell me wholly on Fritz The Cat.
The problem with the lack of a narrative is that the film slides into these repetitive cycles from which it cannot escape. After Fritz leaves the crow bar it becomes clear that the film is going to e a series of encounters where Fritz will be able to expose the bullshit that makes up late 60s-early 70s counter culture. At least I believe that Mr. Crumb, if not Mr. Bakshi, steadfastly views early 70s counterculture as complete bullshit. There’s no other way that I can view the film and the characters of this film than the filmic embodiment of the condemnation of late 60s-early 70s counter culture. The truth is that I share the views of the film somewhat, but when looked at as whole Fritz The Cat is far too broad and cartoonish in the presentation of its views.
It’s as if Mr. Bakshi and Mr. Crumb have collaborated to pick out the worst in every stereotype they could come up with. The worst of the druggies, the worst of the thrill seekers, the worst of the black man, the worst of the white man, the worst of the religious, the worst of the cops, and so on. There is no middle ground in Fritz The Cat when it comes to how broadly the film views its characters. Unfortunately this does create a black and white conundrum within the film. Fritz The Cat is trying to say that the world isn’t easily defined as any of these groups would define it while at the same time trying to easily define said groups.
Fritz The Cat walks a fine line between absurdist cultural statement and generalized pigeonholing. That line is very fine indeed, and often times Fritz The Cat stumbles off the line and into the wrong side of town. There are most certainly elements of Fritz The Cat that speak to informed and confident filmmaking but those elements are outweighed by the broad generalizations the film is so willing to put forth. Fritz The Cat is a film that has a message and isn’t afraid to let you know what that message is, even if the delivery device it uses for said message isn’t the best.
Go and read Edgar’s take on one crazy cat at Between The Seats!