Review: Cat Call
- The first feature by Hungarian filmmaker Rozália Szeleczki is a Sleeping Beauty type of fairy tale about a princess bewitched by both childhood trauma and an enigmatic black cat
In an era oversaturated with narratives, where all stories seem to have already been told, one of the few tricks left to newcomers in cinema is to begin telling them all over again through new means of expression. That is what Rozália Szeleczki does in her charming debut, Cat Call [+see also:
interview: Rozália Szeleczki
film profile], which played in the First Feature Competition of the Tallinn Black Nights International Film Festival. Seductively fooling the viewer into believing, for at least half the runtime, that this film is only about an excessive love for animals explored with elements of magical realism, Szeleczki eventually gets it off her chest and unfolds the same old story about a young woman’s romantic awakening, which in our modern times cannot go without a touch of Freudianism.
Dark-haired and wide-eyed architect Fáni (Franciska Törőcsik) is an eccentric girl with a rich inner universe who repeatedly fails to meet Mr. Right. Her singlehood in a world of navel-gazing people is further complicated by a peculiar detail: whenever she feels the flutter of butterflies in her stomach, she suddenly starts picturing her potential match dead and covered in blood, an echo of a tragic event she witnessed as a little girl. The only guys she does not experience those strange visions with are the desperate types presented to her by her grandmother and her gossiping friends who, like all decent grandmas in Eastern Europe, are very worried about Fáni being unmarried at thirty. Her little secret about the workings of her imagination, together with her obsession with restoring an abandoned cultural centre from the socialist era and the haunting shadow of her mysterious deceased father, bring her even more loneliness and seclusion. It’s no wonder that, rather than fall for her new colleague and neighbour (Csaba Polgár), she develops an affection for his male black cat who not only speaks to her with a human voice, but tends to sense her innermost desires. Soon their relationship goes beyond the imaginable fondness between a woman and a cat…
There are few ploys that could make one follow with interest such an innocent and absurd story, naïve almost to the point of cheesiness and ultimately rather predictable. Cat Call successfully puts them all to use, so that we get glued to the screen and eventually have fun: a lovable main character, an attractive and colourful imagery courtesy of cinematographer Kristóf M. Deák’s rigorous gaze, inventive plot twists and an overall weirdness which rather than alienate the viewer, somehow lets everyone in, each with their own peculiarity. Without drawing moral conclusions, Szeleczki’s script — co-written with Zsófi Kemény — happens to imply that there are no insurmountable traumas, and that even the loneliest souls can feel embraced. A hybrid between artsy romantic comedy and modern magical tale, Cat Call is also a metaphor for the chaos of today’s romantic relationships and their permanent “it’s complicated” status; a context in which even the sweetest of happy endings sounds ironic.
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