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New Release Review - TOMCAT

tomcat film review
A couple struggles to recover following an impestuous act of violence.







Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Handl Klaus

Starring:  Lukas Turtur, Philipp Hochmair

tomcat film poster

To paraphrase Narciso Ibanez Serrador, who could kill a cat? Enigmatic packages of furry affection, all purrs, pink tongues and big, knowing eyes that speak to an awareness far beyond mortal understanding; what a weird and lovely creature the felis catus is. It’s no wonder the ancient Egyptians made a religion of them, and it also makes perfect sense that MGM would choose a roaring lion (the biggest cat of all) as their logo, as there is something perfectly cinematic about cats. The camera just loves them, their inscrutability and immediately photogenic nature leaving paw prints across all of cinema: it was calm little kitties that cinematic bosses such as Blofeld and Don Corleone chose as externalisations of their inner menace, and Jones the cat wasn’t afraid of no Alien. Perhaps the Egyptians recognised cats’ pictorial qualities when they idolised them in their sacred art, with its iconic properties of pointed ears, jewelled eyes and tiny angular faces.

tomcat film

So, who could harm one? Mild mannered musician Stefan, co-lead of Austrian Handl Klaus’ brilliant and unique Tomcat, that’s who. Stefan (Lukas Turtur, a balding Ben Fogle), who one day, in a random act of barbarity that contradicts the idyllic lifestyle he shares with his fella Andreas (Philipp Hochmair, euro Jeremy Renner), snaps: literally, breaking the neck of their beautiful Bengal Moses, a bizarre act of malice that shocks and confuses both lovers, and (understandably) shatters the previously doting nature of their relationship.

For childless couples (and, of course, people with kids), a pet often has the conferred status of a child, and is positioned as a vital conductor of reciprocal, familial love. Perhaps this is especially acute for gay couples; I have no idea of the rules and rigmaroles surrounding homosexual adoption in Austria, but for its first 30 minutes, Tomcat establishes the relationship between Stefan and Andreas as deeply loving, an affection which is consolidated by their mutual love for puss Moses. Oh, Moses! What a fantastic beast. Thumping his little tail against a window to be let out, sipping from water as Stefan practises his French horn, having the decency to disappear when his dads drunkenly dance naked about their stylish flat, lazy lob ons waving about like the conductor’s baton at the prestigious orchestra where both Stefan and Andreas work. A delightful animal whose acting chops is met by the superlative performance of his human counterparts. Add Moses to the cat-canon!

tomcat film

In fact, the couple’s lifestyle is presented as so blissful, so achingly tasteful and aspirational, that Stefan and Andreas’ domesticity begins to grate a little as it goes on: and it is just at this point that Stefan commits the unspeakable, a brutally efficient action that comes out of nowhere and is genuinely shocking in its arbitrary nature (soft lad that I am, I was almost sick). Perhaps there is meaning to be found in this careful pacing: does Stefan suffer a kind of middle class ennui, which the audience has been slyly encouraged to share? Or maybe Tomcat is not as prosaic as that. It certainly doesn’t offer us any easy answers or solutions. Like the game of football Stefan plays with his mates post killing (during which he awkwardly breaks down), Tomcat is a film of two halves; the convincing bliss of the opening suddenly curdles to a harrowing process of grief, presenting a relationship which seems forever bruised by a single, senseless act.

tomcat film

Bruised, but not broken though. Andreas doesn’t do the obvious thing (like fly at Stefan with a raised hammer), and the couple attempts to continue under the insurmountable strain caused by that fatal moment of madness. It is possible that Stefan is suffering from a psychosis, or maybe he is simply a control freak (in an earlier sex scene it’s established that Stefan is the top to Andreas’ acquiescent bottom). Like the shattered couple, at times the film itself seems to have no idea how to progress narratively, and simply (bravely, honestly) presents the heartbreak as is, in a pointlessness that is utterly gripping. Tomcat reminds us that relationships which are ostensibly perfect may hide unfathomable sadness, by demonstrating that work, friendship circles and their shared domestic space are all inextricably tied to Andreas and Stefan’s coupledom; a social prison that the two have constructed and cannot escape, and which Moses, a creature of self-assurance and feline independence, was ultimately an unwitting victim of.

Tomcat is in UK cinemas now.



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