Fish & Cat
Directed by Shahram Mokri
A group of students travel to a remote region to participate in a kite-flying event. Next to their camp by the lakeside, they find a restaurant with cooks that treat the students with suspicion. Bizarre events lead to a complicated situation, from which the students cannot escape.
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★★★★ review by Vanessa on Letterboxd
Fish & Cat exceeded all my expectations. When watching a single-take movie, you'd expect a linear timeline, but instead the camera follows different people throughout the movie and returns to previous scenes to show them from the point of view from several characters.
The story begins with two cooks and continues with a group of students who meet for a kite festival near their restaurant. For the first hour the movie focuses on the students and their stories and makes you forget about the chefs, until they suddenly return again. From this moment on Fish & Cat becomes more and more complex and unreliable and forces you to think about everything you've seen to try to figure out what's relevant to the story and what's gonna happen next.
The biggest achievement of Fish & Cat is that even though it's revealed in an insert at the beginning what's going to happen and there are several hints throughout the movie, it's never obvious until the very last scene. This mystery is what makes the movie so special, but due to the extraordinary cinematography and the way how the story is told, it'll still hold up on a second viewing.
★★★★½ review by Shervin Ghiami on Letterboxd
Not since Alexander Sokurov's Russian Ark has the single take been attempted at such a grandiose level. Shahram Mokri's first feature length film is an exceptionally audacious, experimental and risky project, which not only defies the meaning of the word 'genre', but also transcends any characteristics standard to the genre film. Fish & Cat is at once a suspense, a thriller, a horror, a romance, a coming-of-age, and a cinematic exercise in stretching the boundaries of the medium.
The film starts with the suspicious Babak, and slowly expands its cast as the camera moves from forest to forest and coast to coast. Some of our questions are answered - others are not. But even this minor attempt at filmic omniscience is much more liberating than the traditional genre film. Mokri opens up dimensions of possibility with Fish & Cat, and further expands a growing practice initiated by Sokurov, which has lately been reinforced by Sebastian Schipper's Victoria.
Fish & Cat is constantly engaging despite its occasional glaciality. One can feel the authenticity of each character involved, and some of the relationships defy any expectations of artificiality and connect the viewer with the film as an experience. Indeed, Fish & Cat is so striking in its presentation that the film begins to feel less of a creation, and more of a recreation - as if the events of the 90s are actually being presented to us, in real time.
One must ignore the structural faults and editing challenges, because the location in which the film is set makes the issue of fluidity particularly difficult. Yet one can easily forgo these minor faults, and delve into the film's atmosphere, its striking cast, and wonder not only about the possibilities of the film itself, but also of the medium at large, with the growing capabilities of cheap technology, and the increasingly sophisticated modern man, invigorated by globalization, education and contemporary passion.
Fish & Cat is an essential film of the new century - perhaps it lacks the raw, emotional focus that makes Victoria a masterpiece; nevertheless, Fish & Cat is a fine film, and arguably one of the most sophisticated films of the decade.
★★★★½ review by Dimitris Dx on Letterboxd
Καταρχήν: ξεχάστε όλα όσα ξέρετε για το ιρανικό σινεμά. Το "Fish & Cat" θα μπορούσε να μιλάει οποιαδήποτε χώρα και να είναι το ίδιο εξαιρετικό. Γυρισμένο με μία μόνο λήψη 134 λεπτών και φωτογραφημένο εξαιρετικά γύρω από μία λίμνη και το γειτονικό δάσος, το φιλμ είναι η μεγαλύτερη έκπληξη των ταινιών της φετινής Mostra.
Το περίεργο είναι ότι παρά το γεγονός ότι η ταινία αποτελείται από μία μόνο λήψη, αυτό δεν σημαίνει ότι είναι γυρισμένη σε real time. Κάνει πισωγυρίσματα στο χρόνο, προσφέρει παράλληλες οπτικές και εντυπωσιάζει με την σκηνοθετική του προσέγγιση! Θα μπορούσε να είναι κάλλιστα διαγωνιστικό, ελπίζω να πάρει την φόρα που αξίζει στα επόμενα φεστιβάλ και να καταφέρει να γίνει γνωστό γιατί, πέρα από την καινοτομία του, παρουσιάζει και μια ιστορία που πλησιάζει τα όρια του θρίλερ, με μικρές δόσης ειρωνείας. Εξαιρετικό!
★★★★ review by nigemo on Letterboxd
NZIFF2014 #29, Academy.
Mesmerising; I found the repetition very clever, even if it seemed slow & drab at times. I found I was always looking for that next overlap. Starting with the juiciest characters was a great way to hook me in, then dotting oddness amongst the banal made it feel so exciting. ONE TAKE?!?
★★★★ review by Andrew Buckle on Letterboxd
There was a moment in this extraordinary two-hour plus Iranian single-take mind-bender Fish & Cat when I was hooked, and I stayed so throughout the remainder. This is a conceptual experiment that requires a great deal of patience and won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. It is a playful ‘horror’ film - there is tension and unease, but nay a genre convention in sight - that will surely leave audiences scratching their heads. A group of young people meet at a lake, set up their camp and prepare for a kite festival, and over the course of the shot, helmed by the DP of A Separation, we follow these individuals as they cross paths with one another, and two chefs from a nearby dodgy-looking restaurant. As the film does strange things we are challenged to reflect on everything we have seen and simultaneously think ahead, it becomes an increasingly complex entanglement of strands that make for a giddily exciting trip.
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