Fritz the Cat (1972)

from the 1972 animated film "Fritz the Cat"

I stumbled upon this movie again (having seen it in my youth) and almost passed it over for review. I told myself that what I remembered of the Ralph Bakshi comedy based off the R. Crumb underground comic character was nothing more than a sophomoric humor piece from the drug crazed 60’s era, but something told me to go back and take a closer look. My regard for Bakshi’s work persuaded me to sit down and see the film again and I was quite surprised at what I had forgotten about this movie.

Sure, it’s laced with drug and sex references and happens to be the first animated movie to receive an X rating but if you look beyond the obvious and actually look at the imagery and expressive direction of Fritz the Cat, you can see a lot of inspiration there. The movie is set in New York City in the 60’s. The main character, Fritz, is up to whatever he can latch onto that will get him high or in bed with a cute girl (or 3). Stereotypical depictions of characters, i.e. pigs used for police and crows used for African Americans in Harlem, are handled with a blunt realism to the times and give the humorous take on life during this period of American history. One of my favorite visual interpretations is the death of Duke, a crow he befriends in Harlem. The interpretive imagery is something I find lacking in a lot of today’s films.

Watch it for a laugh, but appreciate the visual donation to animated arts this film brings. For all of the negative people may find in Bakshi’s work, I have to stand firm on applauding his groundbreaking approach to cinema.

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