A Cat in Paris (2010)
*currently streaming on Sundance Now
Although many of us bemoan the death of the video store, one of the (unintentional) consequences of the rise of streaming services is the broadening market for indies and foreign-language films. Movies that otherwise would have been found buried in the stacks at Blockbuster are widely available. I know for certain my childhood Blockbuster wouldn’t have carried A Cat in Paris, an animated film from Folimage that was nominated for an Academy Award back in 2010.
A Cat in Paris tells of the exciting adventures of Dino, a black cat with red stripes who lives with Zoe and her mother Jeanne by day, and by night accompanies dashing cat burglar Nico on his nefarious rounds. Dino is a source of solace and companionship for Zoe, who has become increasingly distant from her mother since her father’s murder by crime boss Victor Costa. In her grief and anger, Zoe has retreated into herself, refusing to speak and largely relating to her cat. While Jeanne investigates her husband’s murder, she leaves her daughter in the care of Dino and their housekeeper Claudine. Dino’s wanderings soon result in the intersection of Jeanne and Nico’s lives, when he accidentally leads Zoe out of the house and into danger.
A Cat in Paris has both its plot and its animation style going for it, developing the characters as much through their fluid movements and physical types as through their roles in the actual narrative. Nico’s movements are fluid, his arms and legs bending and elongating as he traverses the rooftops of Paris with catlike (!) ease. He’s of a piece with Dino, perhaps the most perfectly inscrutable and adorable representation of a cat in animation. Dino is completely at home sliding across fences, annoying dogs, and following in the footsteps of his criminal friend, then returning home to cuddle Zoe and reassure her that she’s loved, as only a pet can do.
As the film develops from Dino’s nighttime wanderings to a screwball-ish caper somewhere between latter-day Hitchcock and Stanley Donen’s Charade, the animation doesn’t lose its sense of magic. Paris is rendered in all its beauty, the essence of the city captured in stuttering, elegant lines and popping colors. The film doesn’t shy away from creating a sense of danger, though the effect is more emotional and psychological than representative of real physical violence. One sequence in which the lights go out during rescue attempt is drawn so brilliantly style that one realizes this is a film that must be animated, that cannot exist outside the realm of hand-drawn art.
My sole complaint about A Cat in Paris is that I was unable to watch it in the original French via streaming, and so had to make do with the English language version. However, this also means that I got to hear Anjelica Huston doing voice work as Claudine, so it all came out right in the end.
Coming in at a brisk 65 minutes, A Cat in Paris is a welcome respite from CGI, as well as an adventure worthy of a 1960s caper film. It also reminded me that of all the cities in the world, Paris is still the most magical.
A Cat in Paris is available to stream on Sundance Now.
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