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"The Strange Little Cat" Returns to FSLC

The Film Society of Lincoln Center will be running Ramon Zürcher's quizzical The Strange Little Cat, from Germany, for a one-week exclusive engagement beginning on August 1st, 2014. The film had its local premiere earlier this year at the New Directors, New Films Festival.

The events of The Strange Little Cat take place over the course of a single day and evening, culminating in a family dinner party — almost all the action occurs within the confines of this single, urban apartment but there is hardly any narrative at all in conventional terms — a glass breaks, the youngest daughter cuts her finger picking it up, a rat is seen scurrying outside, a ball gets thrown through the window, an old woman dozes off, etc. There are a few brief sequences outside the apartment as well as a handful of almost dreamlike cutaways to scenes recalled by characters — these inserts introduce a novel, defamiliarizing texture into the experience of the film. The Strange Little Cat is remarkable for the degree to which it risks being purely inconsequential by merely observing the quotidian details of one ordinary family's day but it also manifests a notable singularity of focus and sensitivity to the peculiar qualities of generally overlooked minutiae.

Zürcher's eccentric and abstract realism generates a minimal, almost antiseptic, visual style, somewhat reminiscent of that of Michael Haneke but without the latter's relentlessness or sense of menace. (The subtle patterning of repetitions recalls the "parametric form" championed by David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson — comparisons to the films of Jacques Tati and Chantal Akerman are not inapposite.) Presented in DCP, the digital format here is uncompromised by the usual problems with the range of contrast consequent upon shooting in bright light, although the austerity of Zürcher's approach might have yielded even richer rewards if he had had access to the more sensual qualities of 35mm (the film seems like it may be in an unusual ratio — at the press screening, the right and left sides of the frame were, regrettably, unmasked — I hope this can be corrected for the opening).

The Strange Little Cat is an unusual but strikingly accomplished work and one looks forward to future films by Zürcher, who is well-served here by his excellent, if unfamiliar, ensemble cast. I applaud the Film Society for taking a chance on such a seemingly uncommercial prospect.

The Strange Little Cat
August 1st, 2014

Walter Reade Theater
165 West 65th Street
New York, NY 10023

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