Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Movie Review: The Strange Little Cat

The Strange Little Cat
Directed by: Ramon Zürcher.
Written by: Ramon Zürcher.
Starring: Leon Alan Beiersdorf (Jonas), Matthias Dittmer (Vater), Lea Draeger (Frau auf Balkon), Monika Hetterle (Großmutter), Mia Kasalo (Clara), Gustav Körner (Nachbarsjunge), Armin Marewski (Schwager), Kathleen Morgeneyer (Hanna), Luk Pfaff (Simon), Jenny Schily (Mutter), Anjorka Strechel (Karin), Sabine Werner (Tante).

The Strange Little Cat feels like the first work of a major director. By itself, it`s an interesting little film – expertly crafted in a series of stationary shots, that observe one long, hectic day in the life of a large German family. It doesn’t do anything particularly profound – I`m not really sure it`s saying anything at all. But it`s so well made, so well-acted – and at 72 minutes doesn’t overstay its welcome – it feels like the type of film a director makes right before he makes his first masterpiece. I don’t know if Ramon Zurcher will do that – but considering that The Strange Little Cat was made as a student film, I think he certainly has the potential to go on to do something great.

The title character is an orange tabby cat, who isn’t really that strange. He walks around the apartment of the German family looking for food, toying with a moth, and basically acting exactly like a cat does. The family itself seems normal – two college age kids are back for some sort of holiday, their much younger sister is cute, but annoying. The mother is stressed from preparing for a large family dinner later in the day. Grandma has started to show signs of senility. An uncle and cousin are there to fix a washing machine. The father kind of fades into the background, and is ignored.

Zurcher has called the film a horror film without the horror – and that makes a certain degree of sense. There is certainly an ominous feeling to the movie – the mother in particular feels like she is holding back a level of hostility that may boil over at some point. She`s passive aggressive with the rest of the family – particularly her husband, who she basically ignores. The college kids have their own problems that they never really verbalize. The younger daughter observes it all – senses something is amiss.

But if anything is going to boil over eventually, it doesn’t on this day. Zurcher eschews any sort of typical plot or character development, and basically just sits back and observes – bringing his characters close to conflict, but never quite getting there. He favors long, unbroken, un-moving shots, which traps its characters in the frame and doesn’t let them out. It is expertly crafted – with the movement in the frame as well thought out as the camera placement.

The Strange Little Cat only runs 72 minutes, and even that may be a little long for a movie that has no plot to speak of. But it works in this case. It isn’t a great movie – but it`s a good one, and it’s one that shows promise for the director. I cannot wait to see what he does next.

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