“Everyone thinks I’m an idiot, but I have a plan,” announces Kermek, the protagonist of Adilkhan Yerzhanov’s tragicomedy Yellow Cat. An ex-convict with an unrivalled passion for the films of French actor Alain Delon, Kermek dreams of leaving behind his former life of crime on the Kazakh steppe. He persuades his partner Eva to abandon their Bonnie and Clyde past and, instead, build a cinema in the mountains. But will Kermek be able to evade the village’s corrupt policemen, loan sharks, and brothel-owners, and make his dreams come true?
The film, which premiered at Venice Film Festival in 2020, takes place in the Kazakhstani village of Karatas, the fictional, placeholder setting for many of Yerzhanov’s previous films. Aside from the cinematography — simple, theatrical visuals with minimalist aesthetics and strong emotional appeal — what makesYellow Cat stand out is its protagonist. A Kazakhstani Don Quixote, with a love for French cinema instead of epic novels, he is neither a hero nor an anti-hero. Perceived by those around him as a fool, he considers himself a brave, cinema-loving changemaker. Yerzhanov, combining deadpan humor with gritty realism, leaves it to the audience to make up their minds about this surreal Alain Delon universe on the infinite steppe, making the film a hilarious yet confusing and thought-provoking watch.
Watch on MUBI.