QUICK AND DIRTY: LIVE FROM TALLINN
Fáni (Franciska Töröcsik) is a 30-year old, who has not had the easiest time with love. Every time she finds a man, she foretells his death, which amuses her mother no end. And when she bumps into Mihály, a hunky co-worker who lives in the same apartment block as her, the visions come back to haunt her. Then she notices his cat, who possesses the ability to speak to her. He seems to peer past the facade, the dresses and the pretence to see the “real” Fáni. What’s more, he doesn’t spur her on to imagine his demise.
She seems to have found the perfect gentleman, and by his influence, she’s developed a taste for milk, nibbles and long walks in the dark. Her friends aren’t convinced by this match, although Fáni assures them that the cat means well. He is, Fáni points out, a talented rapper, which horrifies her mother no end. “It’s one thing he’s a cat,” her mother cries; “but a musician?!” Her mother fears the cat will treat Fáni as badly as her father did, a man who would drop his infant daughter off in the cloak room to play rock music. Which leaves Fáni in a pickle: Is this a cycle she must break, or can she prove her mother wrong?
It’s a novel premise, and a very clever one, yet the execution is riddled with romcom clichés. We have the overbearing, clawing mother; the fickle best friend who is obsessed with materialistic goods; not forgetting the heartthrob who works closely with Fáni at her place of work, encouraging her to live out her dreams, no matter how audacious they are. Csaba Polgár looks bored as Mihály, resigning himself to everyone of Fáni’s whims, even if it means forking over €4,000 which the cat intends to use on a music video. Róbert Alföldi is similarly wasted as the boss who recognises the genius in Fáni, even though her cat/boyfriend devours his prized fish for breakfast. More annoyingly, the film’s funniest sequence feels like it was lifted almost entirely from The Return of the Pink Panther (Blake Edwards, 1975), in which Fáni tiptoes into her place of work, for fear of being spotted by a fellow colleague on a day she is reportedly sick for.
In short, what could have been an engrossing and original comedy is squandered by veering too closely to the quirky, mainstream American model (weirdly, Fáni’s friend bears an uncanny resemblance to Isla Fisher, an actress who has appeared in a number of insipid comedies). Mercifully for audiences, the filmmakers opt not to go down the bestial route, and the cat clearly tells her that he chose not to sleep with her while he had the chance to. More glaringly, there are too many “pussy” jokes, and a segment in which the cat “nibbles” at a woman’s breast, causing Fáni to lose her cool, feels misjudged in what is by and large a family film.
Which is a pity, because Franciska Töröcsik possesses tremendous comedy chops. Simply watch how Fáni salivates over footage of lions tearing into large tracts of meat; simply pause to the perfect rhythm of the milk gargling down her throat. Make no mistake, Töröcsik is a physical comedian extraordinaire. Unfortunately, she’s less convincing as the hapless maiden who falls head over heels in love with a cat, though to be fair, it’s hard to imagine any actor playing up that aspect with any sense of authenticity.
The film is impressively shot, luxuriating in the locations. Director Rozália Szeleczki flits from industrial greys to kaleidoscopic yellows in a matter of seconds, positing the mindset of the characters as he does so. The film is also tightly edited, and no gag lasts longer than it needs to deliver the point. What’s troubling is that the gags fall flat more often than they soar, and the director, cast and crew lean too heavily on the tried and tested narrative beats to merit Cat Call as disengaging and, worse, unremarkable. And in a film where a woman falls for a cat, it really shouldn’t be unmemorable!
Cat Call just premiered at the First Feature Competition of the 27th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival.