The Swiss film “De Noche los Gatos son Pardos” by Valentin Merz was not a standout despite the murders and zombies.
Switzerland’s entry in this year’s Locarno competition is certainly not the highlight. Whether you want to see it as a low point depends on your own expectations.
Her wordplay-rich title is also her show: “At night all cats are gray/tigers.” This makes it a perfect fit for the Locarno Film Festival. But unfortunately, as with the entire movie, group theory only works in one direction: after all, all tigers remain cats, both during the day and at night.
Drama on the edge of the forest
As a plot thread, the film tells of a possible crime while filming a movie. The colorful band around director Valentine (all characters bear their actors’ names) film the fetish zombie lust drama on the edge of the woods with plenty of panting, licking, smelling, and frolicking in the woods.
Then the director disappears without a trace and the police appear. While the film has been fortunately improvised thus far and occasionally featured Italian or French tearjerker classics (“Ti amo”), the already fluid boundary between production reality, cinematic fiction, and film-within-a-film is now completely dissolved.
Many distinct characters. There’s the inspector with the handsome face and golden earrings. He, his colleagues, and the mayor of the city in France remind us of the police officers in Bruno Dumont’s four-part Le p’tit Quinquin. Inept, lovable, eccentric.
The police level in the film works according to the logic of the sex scene filmed by the team: There is nothing.
The game takes the place of the usual investigative traditions of a detective story. Just as the movie cast simulates a zombie attack in the jungle, the police actors also imitate the investigations expected in countless movies.
Maybe a murder
People are already being questioned and doubts expressed before it becomes clear whether something really happened to director Valentine. A Mexican crew member provides the most important indication of this. The man describes the dream in which he saw the corpse of Valentine wrapped in plastic.
A little later, the corpse was already found in the forest. But before the Undertaker Binggeli from Zurich and his colleague Yana can find their way out of the woods where they got lost in picking up the body, the dead person is already gone.
The film then leads to the Mexican Pacific. In the retelling, this sounds more coherent and funnier than it actually looks.
Cat mimics a tiger
Valentin Merz of Zurich, who found a second home in Mexico, turned to improvisational theater for his first feature film.
The juxtaposition of fantasy production and cinematic pseudo-reality sometimes works well. The film even sometimes develops a certain poetry.
However, existential breathing is missing, the mythical roots, as Christian Schucher’s Swiss improvised epic called “Warrior Travel” some forty years ago. The bridge to Mexico at the end of the film is of limited help, despite its traditional way of dealing with death.
The movie was definitely an adventure for its makers, and it could be said that it was fun too. It’s great that movies like this can be made. But even in the often uphill competition at the Locarno Festival, he’s not a tiger, just a cat chasing a reflection of light.