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Arts & Life

Feline Film 'Kedi' Is The Cat's Meow

Oscilloscope Laboratories

Kedi, is about the cats who live on the streets of Istanbul. To say the least, the street cats of Istanbul are numerous, and according to the movie, nearly every one of them has a personality, a function for the betterment of human kind and an important social role. Some of the cats are even listed by name in the cast list at the end of the picture. It usually takes an agent to get that.

The cats come in the typical range of colors and guises, and each one has a person to speak for her or him: a fisherman, a vegetable seller in an open market, an artist, a man with a boat, a woman in a clothing store, a fish seller on the harbor. And the human speakers have plenty to say on the cats’ behalf. They describe the personalities of the cats; they talk about the cats’ needs and wants, their tastes in food, their tastes in affection.

They talk about what the cats do for them and other human beings who pass through this world dominated by cats. It’s pretty much what people in our country say about cats – at least the people who love cats. They talk about companionship from the cats. They talk about how cat behavior is a model for some human beings. Most people in the film admire cat independence; some call it snobbery, but others simply credit cats for not needing to fawn before people – the way that other common four-legged pet fawns and begs.

Kedi is a lovely, light-hearted picture. Long sequences show cats squeezing into tiny spaces where they apparently live some of the time, or traveling around their neighborhoods, sniffing the sights along their routes. And there are lots of shots of cats sleeping and eating and attending to their own needs. The people who talk about the cats – and no one seems to own a cat – talk with great love and respect for cats, but few are over the edge obsessive. One man credits cats for helping him pull out of a serious mental breakdown; others say that cats have provided comfort from stress and disruption. Near the waterfront, a man feeds milk from a syringe to a litter of motherless young kittens, and says that a cat had helped him find money when he was once in great need.

Everyone is kind to the cats, of course. There’s lots of petting. It’s a place where cats are honored and cared for. And the film is more than that. Even besides showing the extent of cat and human interdependence, the movie shows how a big city looks from about a foot off the ground – the cat point of view – and it changes how you think about life in a city, with things that are tall and other things that are close to the ground.

Kedi also offers a tour of Istanbul, the parts where average people live, shop and work – a gorgeous ethnic and architectural blend of Europe and the Middle East. Not the touristy or wealthy parts. Director Ceyda Torun leads the film through vibrant neighborhoods with food and clothing shops, lots of open markets, and people on the street. Once in a while there’s a wide shot of the Bosporus that mythical watery connection between the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. It feels big and mighty. It stretches deep into the background of the images; boats go back and forth, and it recalls the crucial location of Turkey between Europe and Syria, Iran and Iraq.

With the low camera, the cats in Kedi take on stature and magnificence. Visually, they’re equal to the life and scope of the city; they’ve earned the praise and attention people pour onto them. Happily, Kedi offers no moralizing about the cats. They don’t strive for meaning; they’re the purely existential beings the people describe.

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