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The Strange Little Cat DVD Review

The Strange Little Cat (Das merkwürdige Kätzchen) U.S. DVD cover art - click to buy DVD from Amazon.com The Strange Little Cat (Das merkwürdige Kätzchen)

US Theatrical Release: August 1, 2014 (German Theatrical Release: January 2, 2014) / Running Time: 72 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated

Writer/Director: Ramon Zürcher

Cast: Jenny Schily (Mother), Anjorka Strechel (Karin), Mia Kasalo (Clara), Luk Pfaff (Simon), Matthias Dittmer (Father), Armin Marewski (Brother in Law), Leon Alan Beiersdorf (Jonas), Sabine Werner (Aunt), Kathleen Morgeneyer (Hanna), Monika Hetterle (Grandmother), Gustav Körner (Young Neighbor), Lea Draeger (Woman on Balcony), Ferdinand (Dog), Kasimir (Cat)

1.66:1 Anamorphic Widescreen; Dolby Digital 5.1 (German)
Subtitles: English; Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5) / Black Keepcase
DVD Release Date: January 13, 2015 / Suggested Retail Price: $29.99

Buy The Strange Little Cat on DVD at Amazon.com

The German film The Strange Little Cat looks in at a household one autumn day. Many people come and go, their relationships not always clear to us. They're there for a dinner, which we barely see. Aside from two flashbacks, we never leave the house. Hardly anything eventful occurs. This family includes a mother, a father, a teenaged boy and girl, a younger girl and boy.
The title isn't purely hypothetical: there is a cat, but it isn't so much strange as underappreciated. Despite the title, it is certainly not the focus of the film. But then again, it is a character about as well defined as any of the others. This is one of those slice of life films where characters' lives appear to be even more mundane than yours is on a typical day.

Making his feature debut, writer-director Ramon Zürcher keeps the camera still all the time for long extended takes. He sometimes shoots the movie so that characters' heads are out of frame. It's not quite a cat's point of view, but it is the perspective of an impartial observer who is privy to these candid, intimate, ordinary exchanges. A grandmother (Monika Hetterle) sleeps. A mother (Jenny Schily) tells the story of a recent trip to the movie theater where a stranger's foot got uncomfortably close to hers. The teenaged girl (Anjorka Strechel) tells of flicking parts of an orange peel and always having them land white side up. There is a game of Connect Four. Besides the cat, a photogenic orange tabby, there is a dog. And a moth. And a little neighbor boy who plays hacky sack outside and politely and persistently asks for his ball after it lands inside the window.

A German family assembles for a day in "The Strange Little Cat."

Generally, I'm content to synopsize a film in three paragraphs. Here, two paragraphs were a stretch and I'm all out of things to say. As a German film from a first-time filmmaker that played a single US theater for a week in August, where it earned just under $6,000, there is not much context I can add. The film's North American theatrical status and title were enough for me to request it for review. I entered knowing practically nothing about the film. I left knowing very little more. This is an unusual film which lacks anything resembling a conventional plot. With end credits beginning 69 minutes in, it is mercifully short, but absurdly uneventful. Are we to appreciate being allowed to observe this unremarkable family for a day?
To read into their goings-on, which include the repair of a washing machine and a sausage that squirts on a shirt? To simply take pleasure in the fact that Zürcher is using the medium for something different than most? You are just as qualified to answer all these questions as I am, for this is the kind of movie that makes me feel like a novice and not someone who has been writing about films for a living for over a decade.

VIDEO and AUDIO

Posing my introduction to the arthouse label KimStim, The Strange Little Cat looks great on Blu-ray. The fixed 1.66:1 compositions always boast clarity and all the detail you could hope for in 16:9-enhanced standard definition. The optional player-generated English subtitles are easy to read and grammatically sound. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack doesn't grab your attention very often, but it is gladly without problems.

Cast and crew answer questions of Dennis Lim and those in attendance at Lincoln Center in this bonus feature. The cat who's not particularly strange or little sleeps on the DVD's scored main menu.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

On DVD, The Strange Little Cat is joined by two bonus features, each emanating from a New York screening presented by the Film Society of Lincoln Center
and The Museum of Modern Art.

First, there is a brief introduction to the film (2:04) offered by Lincoln Center director of programming Dennis Lim and the film's writer-director Ramon Zürcher.

More significant is a post-screening Q & A session (35:11) hosted by Lim and featuring Zürcher, producer Silvan Zürcher, and cast members Jenny Schily and Sabine Werner. It is conducted entirely in English, even if the speakers aren't entirely comfortable in that language. Tackling topics like casting and working with animals, the discussion does not really enhance your appreciation or understanding of the film.

The static menu features the titular cat under an excerpt of score. Other menus are silent. There are no inserts within the standard black keepcase.

Clara (Mia Kasalo) plays a game of Connect Four. Mother (Jenny Schily) seems a bit disturbed.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

The Strange Little Cat is an almost indescribable film. This stagnant, understated German drama presents an unremarkable day in the life of a seemingly average family. How much you get out of it will largely depend on how you interpret these minor interactions. I definitely cannot recommend the film except as something entirely unlike what you are probably accustomed to watching in 2015.

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Reviewed January 19, 2015.



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