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  • PG
  • Animation, Family
  • 2010

A Cat in Paris

A Cat in Paris

Synopsis

Jean-Loup Felicioli and Alain Gagnol's hand-drawn animation is a breathlessly beautiful melange of cats and criminality.

About

"I do wonder where that villain hangs out at night. Don't you?"

The speaker is Police Superintendent Jeanne - but although unhinged gangster Victor Costa, recently responsible for the murder of Jeanne's policeman husband, is still at large on the Parisian streets, Jeanne has a more domestic villain in mind: the family cat Dino who, like Jeanne herself, stays out at night and has a habit of bringing its work home with it.

In fact, Dino is leading a double-life, spending its days with Jeanne's young daughter Zoe (withdrawn and mute since her father's death), and sneaking out nights to assist lonely gentleman thief Nico with some cunning cat burglary. When, late one evening, Zoe follows Dino out the bedroom window, the different worlds of cops and criminals, cats and catatonics will all come together on the precipitous parapets of Notre Dame.


Elegantly hand-drawn in a style that is part Picasso-esque faux naivete, part noirish chiaroscuro, A Cat In Paris looks as cool as Serge Basset's jazz-inflected score sounds. There is no CG, no 3D  just beautifully mannered 'traditional' animation and enough action, intrigue, suspense, comedy and romance to fill a film far longer and less lean than this.

Adults will appreciate the influence of Tarantino on the way that Costa's criminal crew argue about food and complain about their codenames (including 'Mr Frog' and 'Mr Hulot'), and might even perceive Citizen Kane's distorted reflection in the film's final image of a snow globe - but at the film's heart is Zoe's perspective, affording younger viewers a way into a plot where the bumbling antics (and hilarious dialogue) of Costa's henchmen and the wonder of the Parisian skyline sit alongside more serious themes of loss, loneliness, trauma and death.

Costa's murderousness and mania may make him a frightening figure, but this is carefully undercut by his pie-in-the-face absurdity and childishly narcissistic banter. Meanwhile the film's most nightmarish visions - Costa morphing into a rapacious red octopus, a colossal statue rampaging Kong-like through the streets - are framed precisely as hallucinations, falling away to a more grounded reality. Yet for all the gravity at work in this eaves-leaping caper, there is still plenty of room for joyous flights of fancy.

In a nutshell

This elegantly animated rooftop caper comes with feline sophistication.

by Anton Bitel

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