Thursday, July 16, 2009


No, not Halle Berry's Catwoman: that was, erm, disappointing. I'm talking about Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman, in Batman Returns. Not as good a movie as Tim Burton's first Batman, but a more Tim Burton movie, and that's not a bad thing. To fill Jack Nicholson's shoes he had to have two villains; Penguin in all his mad tragedy and grotesque venality, and Catwoman. The result was confused drama (so of course they replicated the pattern in the next two movies in the franchise: talk about your diminishing returns).

I don't know much about the character of Catwoman in the comics. But Michelle Pfeiffer: this is silver screen immortality. She nails the sexy: "Meow," she says, and packs in the whole cinematic lineage of femmes fatales. She nails the mousy of the pre-Catwoman Selina Kyle: "Hi, honey - I'm home. Oh, I forgot, I'm not married." (I used to quote that to myself for years, until I got married.) And she nails the Working Girl-era feminist subtext beautifully. Forget all that Dasani mumbo-jumbo about mystic cat ladies. "Meow," indeed.

This Catwoman, now that I think about it, is an early version of the Tim Burton heroine: strong, sexy, and strange-bordering-on-macabre. Think Katrina Van Tassel, Ari, Emily the Corpse Bride, Mrs. Lovett.

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