Sunday, November 7, 2010

#93. Fritz the Cat (1972)

DVD Synopsis: It's the age of awakening and Fritz, one way-cool cat and NYU student, loves to embrace every experimental experience that crosses his path. Embarking on a fantastic journey of self-discovery, he indulges in everything from multiple bedroom follies to a wild joy ride through a dangerous Harlem. But when Fritz joins a group of radically aggressive hippies, he finds himself holding the dynamite that will detonate the ultimate 60s that could cost him his life!

Based on a character created by underground cartoonist R. Crumb, Fritz the Cat was the first animated feature to receive an X rating, and with all the breasts and penises that pop out during it's scant 78 minute run time, it's easy to see why (in the opening scene, a Rhinoceros construction worker, sitting high atop a scaffold, rises to his feet, whips it out, and proceeds to piss on the head of a poor hippie walking below). 

Yet despite it's moments of sex and vulgarity, Fritz the Cat works well as social commentary, throwing a critical light on such late-60's issues as free love, white guilt, police brutality, race riots, drug experimentation and, as we see time and again in Fritz himself, intellectual hypocrisy.  At one point, Fritz is hanging out in a pool hall frequented by black crows.  While talking to one of the crows, Fritz starts to pontificate on how he feels guilt over the way 'his people' have treated the crow minorities, but when the crow offers to buy him a drink, Fritz turns to the crow bartender and shouts out, “Hey, boy, how about pouring me a drink?”. 

The animation style is harsh and gritty, and there are more than a few scenes depicting frank sexuality, yet within the confines of it's shocks and thrills, Fritz the Cat had something very definite to say about American society at the time, and in my opinion, it says it very well.


Oceng said...

This film was directed by Ralph Bakshi, whose notable works also include Wizards and The Lord of the Rings (1978). His unique use of rotoscoping makes them worth checking out

Dave Becker said...

Thanks for the comment.
I remember watching the Lord of the Rings years ago, and I didn't made the connection that it was the same person behind that film and Fritz the Cat. Very interesting.

sundersartwork said...

Crumb disowned the movie, he thought it was dreadfull, that Bakshi added all this political and racial stuff. Fritz the cat, like all Crumbs drawings are really autobiographical. The cat became a huge icon, appearing on t shirts and things. Bakshi stopped making animation after 'Coonskin ' was picketed by various political groups. Ironically it was an anti racist film, now taken more seriously academically than it was then.

Dave B. said...

I did read where Crumb wanted nothing to do with this movie. If I remember correctly, he even touches on it in CRUMB. I enjoyed the movie, and actually just picked up COONSKIN on DVD.