Review: A Cat in Paris (2011)

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Cast: Dominique Blanc, Bruno Salomone, Jean Benguigui
Director: Alain Gagnol, Jean-Loup Felicioli
Country: France | Netherlands | Switzerland | Belgium
Genre: Animation | Comedy | Crime | Family
Official Trailer: Here


A category far more open to international efforts than its predominantly Anglophonic older brother Best Picture, the Best Animated Feature category at the Oscars has, since its 2001 inception, welcomed a variety of foreign talents to the competition. Joining Chico and Rita at the 84th ceremony to make for a first-time two non-American nominees was A Cat in Paris, a French escapist fantasy following the eponymous pet’s adventures amidst the Parisian criminal underworld, and the efforts of its young owner Zoé to discover just where it goes each night.

Proving simultaneously that flatness and lifelessness are not equivalent, it is a film of magnificent richness, the sprawling expressionist shadows traced across its colourful canvasses flickering with the energy of hand-crafted beauty. Careful cross-hatching fills the frame with a lively darkness, stocking each street corner with just as much majesty as the characters who creep by them.

It’s interesting to note that the foreign animation nominees in 2012 were the only films among the five to employ traditional animation techniques. Very much an old-school style offering, A Cat in Paris thrives on the simplicity of its design, favouring an accentuated flatness sharply contrasted with the digital animation of Disney or Dreamworks. Proving simultaneously that flatness and lifelessness are not equivalent, it is a film of magnificent richness, the sprawling expressionist shadows traced across its colourful canvasses flickering with the energy of hand-crafted beauty. Careful cross-hatching fills the frame with a lively darkness, stocking each street corner with just as much majesty as the characters who creep by them.

The titular cat’s unlikely escapades might supply the thrills that drive the narrative, but it’s the efficient reality of Zoé that makes us care to pay attention in the first place. A lonely child whose police officer mother doggedly pursues the criminal ring responsible for the death of her husband, the strange sequence of events is as much an exciting escape from everyday mundanity for her as it is a dangerous descent into the scary adult world. She peers out cautiously from the safety of a bush, the moonlight painting her face with a faint glow as from a candle. There is no great expressivity to the animation style of Alain Gagnol and Jean-Loup Felicioli, yet somehow just the sight of an eyebrow fearfully raised is enough for us to feel as vulnerable as Zoé, just a downturned mouth enough to communicate the immersion in this dark place.

Replete in night and shadows though it is, A Cat in Paris is not a terribly dark film, its brief flirtation with weightier themes of loss and grief arguably more a plot point than a sign of wider ruminations on death. It is a fun film: a light piece of children’s entertainment that imagines a more exciting life for a family pet.

Replete in night and shadows though it is, A Cat in Paris is not a terribly dark film, its brief flirtation with weightier themes of loss and grief arguably more a plot point than a sign of wider ruminations on death. It is a fun film: a light piece of children’s entertainment that imagines a more exciting life for a family pet. Gagnol and Felicioli know how to balance striking set pieces with quieter moments of tension, their narrative arresting for each of the seventy minutes it lasts. Their story culminates in a wonderful scene set atop the Parisian skyline, demonstrating precisely this deft practicality in construing a thrilling tale. Here is a movie that dangles peril before us and our inner children like wool to a kitten. If we allow ourselves, we can gleefully enjoy it from the safety of a warm embrace.

[notification type=”star”]72/100 ~ GOOD. A Cat in Paris is a movie that dangles peril before us and our inner children like wool to a kitten. If we allow ourselves, we can gleefully enjoy it from the safety of a warm embrace.[/notification]

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About Author

Ronan Doyle is an Irish freelance film critic, whose work has appeared on Indiewire, FilmLinc, Film Ireland, FRED Film Radio, and otherwhere. He recently contributed a chapter on Arab cinema to the book Celluloid Ceiling, and is currently entangled in an all-encompassing volume on the work of Woody Allen. When not watching movies, reading about movies, writing about movies, or thinking about movies, he can be found talking about movies on Twitter. He is fuelled by tea and has heard of sleep, but finds the idea frightfully silly.

  • Tamzinreay

    it awsome