Review: “The Strange Little Cat”

This is the only film I caught at this year’s New Directors?New Films series.

Before the film started, the director, a slight, appealing young German named Ramon Zurcher, thanked us for coming and wished us “good projection”. Unfortunately, I found nothing as charming or as amusing as that in the film. Set entirely in a bright but small Berlin apartment, it chronicled a family gathering that included the mother and father, their children and a grandmother, who was visiting along with several other family members of unspecified consanguinity. There is also the titled cat, which is orange, and a black dog that has at least equal screen time. At any rate, I counted more woofs than meows.


Deliberate tedium seemed to be the goal. N-O-T-H-I-N-G  H-A-P-P-E-N-S. The precocious little girl irritates mommy, who gives her a couple of perfunctory slaps. Grandma is sleeping. Mommy is frowning. The dog woofs. The cat crawls over sleeping grandma. Relatives come and everybody kisses. Oh. It’s over.

The notes said Bela Tarr was an influence. If I read that first, I might have skipped it. But it reminded me more of a Donald Barthelme literary parody I read which consisted entirely of the trite prose connectives that link the parts of a story, but with no story around them. It read something like this: “Stung by his remark, Martha moved away from the window.” or “Paul folded the message into his pocket, lit his pipe and left the room.” For seven pages, this is clever and amusing. Style over meaning. For the film, though, the lack of meaning was its meaning, as if style was something to avoid.

Was anything good? The film was short (75 minutes). It was well projected. The actors were not unpleasant to look at, even though the non-humans, including a moth and a pigeon, stole their scenes with ease. I also liked that a rat that the girl said she saw, and was waiting to see again, never shows up. But the story doesn’t either.




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