A Cat in Paris is an animated film that is audacious enough to fall outside of the technique and subject matter of Disney and Miyazaki, whose combined forces dominate the style of the few animated features that slip through the cracks in a culture attracted to the video game worlds of CGI. Figures in A Cat in Parisflicker within the objective lines that constitute their idiosyncratic forms, as if lit by hazy candlelight dreams of the living textures painted by Frederic Black. Shady figures in the night slink and glide through the wet cobblestone streets and craggy rooftops of Paris; arms swaying in the midnight air with the forbidden vibrations of Jazz and the compulsory elegance of master cat burglars.
Documentary filmmaker Lauren Greenfield (Kids and Money, Thin) spent more than three years following Orlando, Florida-based timeshare magnate David Siegel and his thirty-years-young wife, Jackie, their eight kids (one “inherited” per Jackie’s description), five or six (or more) dogs, and a household staff of 19, including nannies, housemaids, cooks, and a full-time driver. By luck or coincidence, Greenfield encountered the Siegel family at their highest point, financially speaking. The 2008 banking crisis and the recession that followed heavily impacted the timeshare market, dependent as it was on cheap loans and subprime mortgages to grow and thrive, and with it, David’s company, Westgate Resorts, and his personal fortune. What follows is a cautionary tale of hubris, conspicuous consumption, and comeuppance, a nouveau riche satire, and an indictment not just of hyper-capitalism, but of the American Dream (on steroids) as well.
A an attractive female poet is rescued from the sea by a seasoned male writer. This happenstance collision of fate would change the lives of these two forever, as we never really know when someone that will be crucial to our existence will stumble (or swim) into our lives. Carice van Houten’s Ingrid Jonker masks great pain under her carefree wisps of hair and infectious smiles. It is a pain honed by a lifetime of internal scars as she tries desperately to gain the affection and approval of her tyrannical father (menacingly portrayed by Rutger Hauer). Ingrid’s chance encounter with Liam Cunningham’s Jack Cope will bring new excitement and passion into her life, but the temporary elation of new love will eventually erode and expose the deep cracks lying just below the surface. This would be Ingrid’s chance to clean the slate and live a lifestyle more suited for satiating her poetic curiosities, but the inescapable pain that lives in the darkest recesses of our minds will eventually resurface, and truly satisfying closure is usually something that only happens in the movies.
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 rare 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.
A Keatonesque figure illuminates the blank canvas of the cinema screen with his spectral visage. We are uncertain of his identity, and can only guess at his gender as his gaunt figure is juxtaposed against the soft features of two female forms. There is a melancholic urgency in his hollow eyes as he stares in to our souls and plants a single question…
The gritty and emotionally exhausting Fish Tank (2009), from British writer/director Andrea Arnold, reveals the disheartening life of 15-year-old Mia (Katie Jarvis) living in the slums of Essex with her selfish and promiscuous mother, Joanne (Kierston Wareing), and her doomed younger sister Tyler (Rebecca Griffiths).
Long silences that play out like suspenseful set-pieces, interminable takes of an empty house impregnated with anecdotes, conversations that seemingly lead nowhere until they discover unexpected depths, and intense looks that weave fragile yet unbreakable relationships. Back to Stay restrains itself to intimate boundaries and finds a universe in every inch, as if every piece of furniture and wooden plank contained a universe, an Aleph of sorts, an infinitesimal window to the world, like in Borges’ story.