The Bad & The Beautiful

Vincente Minnelli, Etats-Unis, 1952, Warner Bros.


A producer and a director are filming, without believing in it, a Z-movie, Le crépuscule des hommes chats. In this scene we see them depressed by the mediocrity and the ridicule of the Cat-men outfit. The spectator will laugh instead of being scared.

The director then goes on about the theory of the “hidden and show” powers. At the same time, he makes a concrete demonstration plunging the screening room into the dark apart from the desk lamp producing a much directed spotlight and expressive shadows, leaving the rest of the set in the dark.

He defends the idea the cat-men should be evoked and never shown is they want to create fear for the public. They have to show the effect (the little girl screaming) without showing the cause (the cat-men) so that the spectators feel anxiety for danger they don’t see but can imagine. He praises suggestion, more efficient according to him, rather than pure and simple representation.

The Cat People scene, in the following extract, works as a direct implementation of this director’s theory.