January 31, 2023


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Sundance’s ‘Cat Person’: Director Susanna Fogel looks at modern dating, life’s gender divide and the screen

3 min read

For her third feature film, “Cat Person,” which premiered in the Sundance Film Festival’s premiere section, director Susanna Fogel and screenwriter Michelle Ashford felt strongly that the film “should be the next installment in the conversation we’ve been having” about these films over the past few years. dealt with issues of gender, relationships, consent, sexuality, and dating,” says Fogel diversity.

This kind of retaliatory feminism presents what Zeitgeist calls this moment a “crop of films, where women are avenging years of oppression and men are put in their place, and it’s a binary between women. And men take back power and men take their cultural The role is punished,” he said.

They wanted to ask themselves: “What’s the next step in that conversation?” And try to make a film that “raises those points of view as valid, but also has a dialectic with the other side of things,” he said.

The screenplay was adapted by Ashford from Kristen Rupenian’s viral and controversial 2017 New Yorker short story. It follows college sophomore Margot (played by “Coda’s” break-out star Emilia Jones), who goes on a date with the older Robert (played by “Inheritance’s” Nicholas Brown), and discovers that IRL (“in real life”) Robert She’s not text flirting with Robert.

Fogel admits he was concerned about doing justice to Rupenian’s identity as an artist. The two would have conversations that would inform some of his choices in casting and film aesthetics. “Even though there was this other layer of narrative that was the screenplay that you illustrated, there was a resonance to the story that I wanted to make sure we captured,” she says.

“Michelle had this idea that there was enough suspense, uncertainty, fear and dread in the inner psychological experience of being a woman that it would be a note to play in the adaptation,” says Fogel. “Michelle’s vision was really: Let’s make those fears so vivid and so intense that they feel immersive for the audience, and we immerse ourselves in those worst-case scenarios and assumptions.”

In addition to Jones and Brown, the cast includes Geraldine Viswanathan, Michael Gandolfini, Hope Davis and Isabella Rossellini.

“The thing about Kristen’s story that was so incredible, but also so challenging to adapt, is that it’s such a relatable story, and the story is really about every girl,” Fogel said. “And when you look at well-known and star actresses in movies, there’s a cult of celebrity around a lot of them that takes the narrative and makes it hard to lose yourself in watching their experiences and then connect. It’s on some level… but in this moment, Emilia felt like a really fresh, exciting choice because she wasn’t exposed in that way.”

Another aspect of the film industry that bothers Fogel is that – despite the “amazing progress” when it comes to women in film today – women are represented in a binary manner. “There’s this pressure for women to appear strong in a way that denies their vulnerability, to set this new standard for how strong women should be,” she says. But he thinks Sundance is the right place to premiere “Cat Person” because “it’s a place where it’s a young vibrant zeitgeist environment — a perfect launchpad for the film, which I hope will spark a lot of controversy.”

Fogel has three projects in the pipeline: the Disney+ limited series “A Small Light” and the feature film “Winner,” also starring Jones, in post-production, and another in development titled “The Mentor.”

“Cat Person” is produced by StudioCanal, 30West, Echelon Productions, Imperative Entertainment and The New Yorker.

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