A Cat in Paris – Reviewed

Rebekka O’Grady, making her Double Negative debut, on the importance of making room for Cinema’s gems…

For many, the words animated film, despite increasingly sophisticated examples to the contrary, continue to conjure up the idea that it can only be a children’s film. However, A Cat in Paris (Une Vie de Chat) is far from just that.

The slick French film, produced in 2010 by the animation studio Folimage, was one of only two foreign films nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Animated Feature category. Ultimately it was beaten by Rango, the high profile Johnny Depp vehicle, but to receive the nomination was a huge achievement in itself for the relatively small animation company.

Hand drawn, A Cat in Paris is a loveable comedy set on the rooftops of the French capital. It harks back to the classic children’s storybook style, sporting a consciously retro aesthetic, with everything drawn in the simplest of outlines and shadings. Though not on general release, A Cat in Paris has been the highlight of many film festivals including the New York International Children’s Film Festival and the Saint-Quentin Ciné-Jeune Film Festival, receiving rave reviews for its charming plot.

The film tells the story of Zoe (Oriane Zani), a young Parisian girl in mourning over the death of her father, a police officer murdered by Paris’ number one criminal Victor Costa (Jean Benguigui). Her mother Jeanne (Dominique Blanc), also a police officer, is determined to track down Costa and make him pay for his crime. Due to her mother’s (understandable) zeal, the only thing that Zoe can find solace in is her cat, who mysteriously sneaks off every evening. We find out that in-fact, he is out on jaunts with cat burglar Nico (Bruno Salomone), helping commit daring thefts of jewellery and large sums of money.

A thrilling caper, A Cat in Paris unravels a number of comedic storylines that become intertwined over the course of one evening. Adults and children alike will be won over by the tale, which could be compared to a child’s version of a high stakes – literally, the action playing out over the rooftops of Paris – Roman Polanski thriller. With just the right level of danger and emotion balanced out by silly, laugh out loud moments. The personalities of each character are developed over the course of the 70 minute film, and whether you’re a cat lover or not, you’ll want to take Zoe’s companion home with you.

The screening I saw was in FACT, the only cinema showing the film in Liverpool, which is a real shame because this particular film offers a different perspective from your typical computer animated films created by American animation powerhouses Disney, DreamWorks and Pixar, which so dominate our multiplexes. This slick paced, humorous and vivid film is lovingly drawn, portraying the romance and excitement of Paris in a unique way, and it deserves to be seen by audiences in much greater numbers. It is important that independent films such as this are given room to be shown by the likes of FACT, but it’s just as important they are brought to the attention of wider audiences.

A Cat in Paris is a sweet and engaging film, and much of this is down to the way it has been created; it’s a labour of love and it shows. The hand drawn aspect gives the viewer a more personal engagement to the film and characters, and shows that European animation is still there, a force to be reckoned with, just below the surface of mass produced Hollywood films churned out year on year. It goes without saying that for these independent films to be kept afloat and unique, audiences need to be allowed to see them. The role of independent cinema houses is vital; it is our responsibility to get along to these films, but first we must continue to have the opportunity.

Rebekka O’Grady

Posted on 12/04/2012 by thedoublenegative