Leave the cannoli, take the movies

Review Blog

The Strange Little Cat

Posted by Jonathan Leithold-Patt on July 30, 2016 at 5:50 PM


Ramon Zürcher




IDEA:  An extended family in a middle-class German apartment prepares for dinner as tensions and curiosities emerge from their interactions.

BLURB:  The characters in The Strange Little Cat might be stuck in a time loop. Although the perfunctory efficiency of their domestic routine has bred a certain complacency in their lives, thus eliminating the chance that they would pick up on this, an unusual number of incidents and objects reoccur within a very brief span of time. We notice it far more than they ever could: in a formal strategy that comments as much on their blinkered vantages as on the way cinema organizes vision, Zürcher employs fixed takes, often from oblique angles that crop out significant spaces and actions, that restrict our focus to only what he wishes us to see. So, we notice the pesky moth that has invaded the kitchen even when the family does not. Oranges, frequently invoked in dialogue and in image, keep repeating in front of the camera, signifying connections, and meaning, that may not exist. Glasses of milk, bottles, bloody fingers, and shopping lists take on talismanic value. Behavior is both disjunctive and familiar; conversations, by turns digressive and direct, stress the banal mysteries of private experience. Zürcher does not prescribe some explanation for the mild yet acute strangeness of his otherwise mundane scenario. He is interested in locating cosmic questions in the interstices of ordinary moments, in mapping the eternal over the quotidian, and with removing us just enough from recognizable reality that we can look at ourselves askew, keeping the little enigmas of human life idiosyncratic and ineffable. The Strange Little Cat is as teasingly gnomic as they come, filled with playful elisions and dead-ends that make it an exemplary cinematic koan.

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