More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2017 (19 to 26 October)
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Kedi (2016) is no more about cats¹ than Visitors (2013) is about alien life per se² on Earth : likewise, Wes Anderson does not intend us to understand The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) to be telling part of the history of The Republic of Zubrowka...
What probably cannot be told, even at the time of filming [the calendar included in one shot seems to show that at least part of the shoot was in 2014], could even less so now : in the Turkey of President Erdoğan, would making this film even be allowed...?
* The nauticality, the maritime nature, of Istanbul both strongly and very beautifully comes out at times, and makes one think of - and long for - Venezia !
* it is very good that at least two (human) participants are heard talking about their mental-health issues in relation to how being with and caring for cats helps them (one says what her therapist thinks, one attributes his progress, after a nervous breakdown in 2002, to looking to feeding the street cats)
* The stories about the cats – whether one or two, or in numbers that run into tens – emerge as a way of managing one’s notional world, through having an understanding of it that is rooted in telling oneself how it is, and the film’s director (Ceyda Torun) acknowledges these stories and, through editing and framing, partly gives an authority to them (saying which, takes from what are clearly different occasions³ are editorially conflated to the end of telling visually what those near to the cat(s) want (us) to believe about each one)
* Though where the film comes into its own is at the point when talk about, or reflection on, the cats of the city shades into alluding to other things – to the question for whom cities and the life within them exist⁴, what it is to be human, and what we lose to our peril… From this perspective, some, but not very many, of the tracks used alongside the composed score (please see below) are spot on for the part of the film for which they have been selected
* Despite some reservations (please see below), there are enough moments of pure cinema to please the fussy watcher of film – plus ones of unforced smiles and laughs about what it is about cats that has some people embrace philosophies or beliefs that assert that cats know God directly, and that we, when we (respond to God and) serve their needs, are but mediators of God’s will
Negatives (these are all less important than they seem, since, on Kedi the 'Ayes' have it) :
* If you did build your entire hopes for the film on seeing the cat from the poster, it is just in one shot
* Which could also be a positive, the fact that some of the film looks – for not necessarily being the best take, but perhaps an atmospheric one – unpolished
* With the first cat featured (who, about the body, is one of the more obviously unsymmetrical ones - ginger, but with predominantly white legs (one of which has a ginger 'flash')), one is 86% certain – and would have to re-watch, when the film is on DVD, to check – that some footage has been flipped, left to right, because, one imgines, having the image that way around looked right (ginger 'flash' apart) / fitted with that segment’s dynamic better
* Kira Fontana’s original score for the film [one looks in vain to IMDb (@IMDb) for much detail about the film, except the soundtrack] is sometimes too intrusive on what one is seeing (for example, the ‘shimmer’ effect of what sounds like low-reverb vibraphone over marimba), with the result of detracting from what it tries to respond to (rather than amplifying it)
* Even when Fontana brings back the principal theme in its full form (presumably, ‘Nine Lives’), which feels as though it is meant to be the final reprise that pulls out all the stops (musically, and so emotionally), there is a connected question :
Does the film do itself a disservice by seeming to build to a closing image, but then reprising the featured cats, and ending (after an unattributed short commentary by voice-over⁴) on another shot and a fade-out – as if not confident that it has established the star cats in our mind ?
Maybe some closing words here... or maybe that is it... ?
¹ As one might guess, 'Kedi' is Turkish for 'cat'.
² In part, Godfrey Reggio is invoking a Biblical saying (1 Chronicles 29 : 15), and alluding to its wider relevance.
³ With, for example, the cat who taps on the window of the bar / restaurant when hungry, the open or shut front door, and where the cat is tapping, give this away.
⁴ With one commentator saying that, if people have lost their relation to cats, it is for them to rediscover it (not for cats to change who they are), for it is to our detriment. Kedi unavoidably reminds of the deeper matter of such films Citizen Jane : Battle for the City (2016), The Human Scale (2012), and A Dangerous Game (2014)…
⁵ It could have been added at any time, not least because it feels more contemporary to the Turkey of now than much of the film (except the clearances of the orchards, and the similar threat to the market area) ?
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Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)