Film Review: ‘Tomcat’

A gay couple question everything they know about each other and themselves when one inexplicably kills their beloved cat.

Lukas Turtur, Philipp Hochmair, Thomas Stipsits, Manuel Rubey, Gerald Votava, Gabriela Hegedues, Brigitte Pototschnig, Oswald Koehler, Simon Hatzl, Richard Obermayr, Vitus Wieser, Magdalena Kronschlaeger, Philemon Aigner, Monica Anna Cammerlander, Levi Veith-Winter, Oliver Rosskopf.

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5432188/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

An Austrian movie about two gay men and a cat naturally opens itself up to Freudian interpretation, but does it have to be so long? Haendl Klaus’ sophomore feature, “Tomcat,” boasts an intriguing premise: When one partner inexplicably, impulsively kills their much-loved kitty, this perfect couple are left questioning everything they knew about each other. The problems lie in the execution, with a tiresome insistence on pre- and post-lapsarian states of grace in which the lovebirds’ oh-so-perfect paradise shifts to banishment into hell. The acting and visuals are strong, the cat is great, but really, how much time do we want to spend with these people’s neuroses? Still, “Tomcat” will prowl around the gay festival circuit with its prize Teddy Award at its feet.

Life is just dandy for French-horn player Stefan (Lukas Turtur) and orchestra manager Andreas (Philipp Hochmair). They have a beautiful home with a great garden, wonderful jobs, terrific friends, a charismatic cat named Moses (charmingly played by Toni), and they’re devoted to each other. So Edenic is this setup that the couple naturally lounge about the house au naturel, just like Adam and Eve. And they have sex, usually alone but sometimes with their friend Lorenz (Thomas Stipsits) watching, which seems to satisfy everyone.

But just before that scene with Lorenz, a dead snake is found in the house. Hmmm. One day when Stefan strokes Moses, the cat seems to try to bite him, and through some unknown compulsion, Stefan breaks its neck. An understandable period of mourning follows, with much wailing. Andreas is doubly traumatized by the death of his beloved cat, and by the knowledge that his lover was the murderer. Unable to comprehend how the man he gave his heart to could have such a violent streak, Andreas freezes him out.

Before the felicide, the two men were always seen together, but now Stefan has been locked out of their bedroom paradise, and helmer Klaus keeps them in separate frames. There’s almost a rapprochement, when Stefan falls while picking plums in their orchard — get it? Eden, fruit, a fall. Presumably apples would have been just too screamingly obvious, which is probably why neither man is named Adam. Still, maybe Moses should have been named Abel? Or Lilith?

The pity is, there’s a lot to like in the early scenes. The music is nicely handled; the general optimism, though overly sunny, is ingratiating; and the sex scenes are honest if perhaps too showily passionate. But pretty quickly, it feels as though Klaus has put everything through some psychoanalytic prism that in truth feels more Jungian than Freudian: It’s fine that the actions don’t always have logical explanations, but the characters, as constructed, fail to fascinate even while the premise retains its merit.

Klaus previously signaled his fascination with repressed emotions and mourning in his debut, “March,” a considerably more glum feature than “Tomcat,” which at least has initially likable people and acknowledges love as a state of grace. On that score, Turtur and Hochmair have a boundlessly energetic chemistry, and they’re not to blame when our interest in Stefan and Andreas wanes. As characters, Lorenz and his closeted b.f., Vladimir (Manuel Rubey, sullen), are more problematic, and their unconvincing side story seems to have been truncated in the editing room.

Widescreen lensing by Gerald Kerkletz (Markus Schleinzer’s “Michael”) nicely captures the expansive intimacy of the couple in their pre-fall stage, as light-filled and airy as the figures themselves. Appropriately, so much space feels empty once the two men move to separate sides of the house. Given that both work for an orchestra (members of the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra play their colleagues and friends), music forms a key element, and the selections, from classical to Miles Davis, are well chosen.

Film Review: 'Tomcat'

Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (Panorama Special), Feb. 13, 2016. Running time: 114 MIN. (Original title: “Kater”)

Production: (Austria) A Coop99 Filmproduktion. (International sales: Films Distribution, Paris.) Produced by Antonin Svoboda, Bruno Wagner.

Crew: Directed, written by Haendl Klaus. Camera (color, widescreen), Gerald Kerkletz; editor, Joana Scrinzi; music consultant, Christof Dienz; production designer, Enid Loeser; costume designer, Tanja Hausner; sound (5.1 Surround), Klaus Kellermann, Claus Benischke-Lang, Bernhard Maisch; sound designer, Stefan Rosensprung; assistant directors, Marco Antoniazzi, Julia Niemann.

With: Lukas Turtur, Philipp Hochmair, Thomas Stipsits, Manuel Rubey, Gerald Votava, Gabriela Hegedues, Brigitte Pototschnig, Oswald Koehler, Simon Hatzl, Richard Obermayr, Vitus Wieser, Magdalena Kronschlaeger, Philemon Aigner, Monica Anna Cammerlander, Levi Veith-Winter, Oliver Rosskopf.

More Film

  • Captain Marvel

    Box Office: 'Captain Marvel' Shatters $900 Million Milestone

    Brie Larson’s “Captain Marvel” continues to do heroic business. In its latest box office milestone, the female-fronted superhero tentpole zoomed past $900 million in ticket sales worldwide. “Captain Marvel” brought in a mighty $87 million globally this weekend, including $52 million from international territories. It has now generated $589 million overseas for a global haul [...]

  • Us - Lupita Nyong’o - cr:

    Box Office: Jordan Peele's 'Us' Stuns With $70 Million Opening Weekend

    Talk about scary good. Universal’s “Us,” the second directorial effort from Jordan Peele, pulled off a stunning debut, generating $70 million from 3,741 North American locations. That haul is enough to land it the second-best opening weekend of the year behind just Disney’s “Captain Marvel” ($153 million). The psychological thriller about a family confronted by [...]

  • 'Shazam!' Review: Zachary Levi is Pure

    Film Review: 'Shazam!'

    In “Shazam!,” Zachary Levi brings off something so winning it’s irresistible. He plays a square-jawed, rippling-muscled man of might, with a cheesy Day-Glo lighting bolt affixed to his chest, who projects an insanely wholesome and old-fashioned idea of what a superhero can be. But he’s also playing a breathless teenage kid on the inside, and [...]

  • WGA Agents Contract Tug of War

    Showrunners, Screenwriters Back WGA in Agency Battle, Sides to Meet Again Tuesday

    More than 750 showrunners and screenwriters have backed the WGA’s battle against talent agencies taking packaging fees and other changes to the rules governing the business relationship between agents and writers. The letter of support issued Saturday is significant because of the immense clout showrunners and prominent screenwriters possess in Hollywood. Several showrunners had recently [...]

  • Doppelgänger Red (Lupita Nyong'o) and Adelaide

    Box Office: 'Us' on Track for Second-Highest Debut of 2019 With $67 Million

    Jordan Peele’s “Us” is on its way to scaring up one of the biggest debuts of 2019, with an estimated $67 million from 3,741 North American locations. Should estimates hold, “Us” will be able to claim several milestones: the highest debut for an original horror movie (the biggest launch for any horror pic goes to [...]

  • NF_D_JGN-D6-2160.cr2

    Film Review: 'The Dirt'

    A long time ago, the words sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll carried a hint of danger. The lifestyle did, too, but I’m talking about the phrase. It used to sound cool (back around the time the word “cool” sounded cool). But sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll has long since passed into the realm [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content