Thursday, June 19, 2014

'A Movie That Has to Teach You How to Watch It': The Strange Little Cat Tonight at Third Man

Posted By on Thu, Jun 19, 2014 at 12:29 PM

In recent months, James Cathcart's monthly screening series The Light and Sound Machine at Third Man Records has concentrated on the canon of avant-garde film: the "Magick Lantern Cycle" of Kenneth Anger, the treasure trove of seminal experimental-film distributor Canyon Cinema. Tonight, the series returns its focus to the present with one of the most acclaimed debuts of recent years. From Mike D'Angelo's review in the current Scene:

Every once in a while, a movie comes along that's so original in conception that it has to teach you how to watch it as it goes along. The Strange Little Cat — which began its life, incredibly, as a sort of class project, devised for a seminar being run by acclaimed (and now retired) Hungarian filmmaker Béla Tarr — might as well have been titled The Strange Little Film, as it runs a scant 72 minutes and resembles nothing most viewers will have ever seen before. This German family drama isn't weird, however — at least not in the way that, say, David Lynch's Eraserhead is weird. There's no surreal imagery, no outré flights of fancy, no industrial thrum. Director Ramon Zürcher has instead taken the units of a fairly ordinary movie and assembled them in an unusual way, creating a uniquely beguiling cinematic rhythm. It feels as if he's reinventing the medium from the ground up, and if he hasn't yet wholly succeeded, that's no reason not to be excited.

Describing this film is a tricky proposition, because nothing much happens in a traditional narrative sense. It's set mostly in a single cramped apartment (though there are occasional flashbacks to other locations), as an extended family engages in scenes of banal domesticity. Mom (Jenny Schily) cooks breakfast, keeping one eye on her youngest daughter, Clara (Mia Kasalo), who's prone to screaming fits. Her teenage daughter, Karin (Anjorka Strechel), who's home for the weekend, hangs out on the periphery of shots, making wry observations and trying to avoid helping with the housework. The family's washing machine is broken, and a neighbor has stopped by to help fix it, serving as another pair of legs for folks to trip over. (Physical negotiations are paramount here.) There is indeed a cat, too, though it's only as mysterious as the average feline and seems to regard human beings as an endless source of benign puzzlement. ...

Read the rest of the review here. Co-sponsored by The Belcourt, the movie starts at 7 p.m., preceded by two shorts by Nashville video artist Mika Agari. Tickets are $10. The screening is at Third Man Records, 623 7th Ave. S.

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