Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Viewing a unique gay relationship in Händl Klaus' strange, passionate love story, TOMCAT

If you want to know just how far and how fulfilling movies about gay characters have come and have become over the past half-century, take a look at the Teddy award-winning film, TOMCAT. I'd call this one a "must" for gay male audiences (and cat-lovers of almost any stripe: the many shots of the cats in this one rival KEDI and just about anything else you may have seen). As spectacularly intimate and encompassing as the movie is, however, there are some caveats I had better mention.

If you object to viewing male genitalia, be warned (there is ample on display here, in one scene even erect and bouncing). However, the manner in which writer/director Händl Klaus handles this full-frontal could not be more real nor more "ordinary." It brings us as close as film has gotten (even, I think, more so than the recent Paris 05:59: Théo & Hugo) in terms of showing us the love and passion these two men feel and express in a way that seems so normal and ordinary. In this sense, it is indeed groundbreaking. There is also a moment of sudden, game-changing violence in the film that will prove very disturbing -- as it should be, and as it is for our two protagonists.

Also, as good as the movie is, it's a little too long. Its lack of incident during the latter half is not made up for by any increase in understanding of our two main characters. They don't seem to grow, nor do we comprehend them any more fully. This is too bad because the two lead actors -- Lukas Turtur (above, right) and Philipp Hochmair (above, left) -- are excellently cast. They are attractive but not gorgeous (and consequently more real), and they inhabit their characters about as fully and well as you could expect, given the limitations of Klaus' script.

So shocking, sudden and seemingly unexplainable is the incidence of violence that changes the film that, of course, we want some kind of explanation. Herr Klaus refuses to give it to us, and that is his right -- particularly if his point is that sometimes this sort of thing really is impossible to explain or understand.

Yet his barely giving a nod to psychiatry or the medical establishment runs the risk of making his movie seem less deep than facile. Sure, medical science can't explain everything, but, hey, why not give it a try? If this has happened here, we're not privy enough to it. No CAT scans or MRIs, and we don't even get to sit in on a therapy session.

Still, what exists is certainly potent: The event that breaches the relationship is a stunner, and then the long, difficult road back to forging some kind of healthy, enduring bond is believable enough. There's one scene on the soccer field that is also memorable. The work environment, too, is nicely handled: One of our guys plays in the local orchestra, the other appears to be perhaps the manager of that orchestra.

We meet some of the pair's good friends, mostly orchestra members, too. German society in general, as it so often appears to be in these movies, seems more inclusive, caring and accepting of the gay community than are those of many other countries, including our own. And oh, my god, are the two cats in this film absolute keepers!

From First Run Features and running just under two hours, Tomcat made its DVD debut yesterday, Tuesday, June 13 -- for purchase and/or rental.

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