January 15th, 2014 at 8:57 am
Part of the Cultographies series, Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! by Dean J. Defino explores Russ Meyer’s iconic, cult classic. (See the film’s trailer below—how could we resist?). In the book, Defino begins by describing his admiration for the film as well as his conflicted feelings about the film. However, as he explains in the passage below, he frequently uses the film in his classes as an illustration of American independent cinema:
I frequently use [Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!] to introduce the concept of independent cinema in the many film courses I teach. Meyer remains one of the few truly independent American filmmakers—having personally financed, written, directed, shot, edited and distributed nearly all of his twenty-three theatrical features— and Pussycat is an ideal illustration of the iconoclastic spirit of indie films because it is so accessible, engaging and well-made. It is a remarkably easy film to teach. And though I justify its place on the syllabus by pointing to its influence on filmmakers like John Waters and the way it raises questions later complicated in the works of John Cassavetes, John Sayles and Alison Anders, really I just want to see it for the first time again through my students’ eyes. Their responses to the film mirror my own to an uncanny degree. Most intuitively key in on the dark ironic tone and the Meyer style, with its low ‘Dutch’ angles, arch compositions and rapid editing tempered by the loose, jazzy score. Many find it, as I did at their age, oddly familiar and compelling. Our discussion invariably shifts from what we find ‘cool’ about the film to more weighty issues of film form, sexual politics and its place in film history and the Meyer canon, but time and again I am left with the feeling that I have failed to account for the film’s strange effect upon me.