Tomcat (Kater). Klaus Händl. Austria.
Imagine Michael Haneke directing a queer remake of Ruben Östlund’s Force majeure that also doubles as a lusty, comedic update of the myth of Adam & (St)eve, and you’ll have a pretty good sense of what to expect from actor-turned-director Klaus Händl’s sophomore feature, Tomcat. Winner of the prestigious Teddy Award at this year’s Berlinale, the film chronicles the idyllic life of a handsome, fortysomething gay couple, Andreas (Philipp Hochmair) and Stefan (Lukas Turtur), who live with their beloved cat Moses in a lovely country home in the vineyards outside Vienna. Complete with a healthy sex life, a sizable group of friends, and respectable jobs working together in an orchestra, the couple’s Garden of Eden-like existence becomes compromised in a single devastating instance… one that’s probably best left out of descriptions of the film, but is akin to the avalanche in Force majeure.
While the Haneke comparison is almost too easy, considering Händl himself had bit parts in both The Piano Teacher and 71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance, it’s clear the director learned a thing or two from his Oscar-winning compatriot. With that said, Tomcat is considerably funnier and sexier than you’d imagine from a film exploring the existential destruction of a once-happy relationship. Händl has a tendency to adhere to the creation myth a little too closely, from the garden to the nudity to the presence of a snake, but as a character study and an examination of grief, Tomcat is totally captivating.
Tomcat premiered in the Panorama section at the Berlinale in February and has played at various festivals worldwide. Unfortunately, I don’t have any distribution info for the U.S., U.K., or France.
With: Lukas Turtur, Philipp Hochmair, Thomas Stipsits, Manuel Rubey, Gerald Votava, Gabriela Hegedüs, Brigitte Pototschnig, Oswald Koehler, Simon Hatzl, Richard Obermayr