The Katy Universe

By Patrick Muhlberger | Comedy
A woman goes to a wedding and develops superpowers.

Katy goes on a drunken, drug-fueled bender at a friend’s wedding, and finds herself in the midst of a panic attack…or maybe she’s actually developing develop telekinetic powers.

As she makes her way through the reception area after the wedding is over, she encounters a floating samosa, calls her ex, ponders the immense scale of the universe and wonders…just what exactly is she doing with her life, anyway?

Writer-director Patrick Muhlberger’s jewel of a comedy has a visual and narrative freshness to it, refashioning elements of action, musical and other genres into a playfully existential yet profound examination of feeling overwhelmed and insignificant in an often bewildering world that often feels like a formless void more than anything else.

The short is essentially a monologue, but from beginning to end, the dialogue arcs and travels over immense emotional territory as Katy tries to make sense of her life on the edge of panic. The film’s central performer, Mary Holland, hits both the comical and dramatic notes with power and ease, and she’s able to render both the profound and petty concerns she grapples with in a relatable, sympathetic way.

Visually, the short is an absolute treat, and each image of the film glows with a vibrant color palette, often shapeshifting with particularly clever camera choreography. The overall visual sensibility is an often madcap, fantastical exploration into both Katy’s subjectivity and the way the cosmos can offer both crisis and comfort in the midst of a breakdown of meaning.

Katy’s maelstrom of emotions are charted by a mixture of a dynamic, inventive mix of special effects and camerawork, whose sweep and movement make full use of the single set the film is shot on. The camera moves with the grace of dance choreography, emphasizing both the character’s discombobulation and her increasingly nebulous tether to reality. When she goes into full superhero mode, the elements all combines into a heightened climax that is hilarious, cosmic and full of despair all at once.

Like his other equally inventive short “Pop Music,” Muhlberger use his singular visual sensibility to explore difficult emotional territory, giving voice and light to the hard, almost unanswerable questions we all face at some point in life. The film is beautifully reminiscent of French New Wave director Jacques Demy’s own musicals, whose candy color palette and sweeping Hollywood-style camera explored the tensions between ordinary life and the yearning for more resonance. Here, it takes the visual tropes of both musicals and action films, but subverts them from their typical uses of awe, escapism and “entertainment.” Instead, “The Katy Universe” uses cinematic spectacle and magic-making to spin, dazzle and deliver an audience into a deeper emotional journey, to both the inner reaches of the heart and the ends of the known universe.

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