Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
New NSFW, Extremely Graphic, Adults-Only Poster For Gaspar Noe's 'Love' New NSFW, Extremely Graphic, Adults-Only Poster For Gaspar Noe's 'Love' First Official Look: Jared Leto As The Joker In 'Suicide Squad' First Official Look: Jared Leto As The Joker In 'Suicide Squad' Joss Whedon Says He Earned More Making 'Dr. Horrible' Than 'The Avengers,' Weighs In On Marvel Vs. DC Joss Whedon Says He Earned More Making 'Dr. Horrible' Than 'The Avengers,' Weighs In On Marvel Vs. DC Tom Hardy Met Mel Gibson And Made Him A Bracelet, Says Michael Fassbender Was "The Sh*t" In School Tom Hardy Met Mel Gibson And Made Him A Bracelet, Says Michael Fassbender Was "The Sh*t" In School Native Actors Walk Off Set Of Adam Sandler's 'Ridiculous 6' Over Disrespectful, Insulting Script Native Actors Walk Off Set Of Adam Sandler's 'Ridiculous 6' Over Disrespectful, Insulting Script Watch: Johnny Depp Rages As Whitey Bulger In First Trailer For Gangster Tale 'Black Mass' Watch: Johnny Depp Rages As Whitey Bulger In First Trailer For Gangster Tale 'Black Mass' Gaspar Noe's 3D 'Love' And More Added To Cannes Film Festival Lineup Gaspar Noe's 3D 'Love' And More Added To Cannes Film Festival Lineup First Look: Johnny Depp Goes Gangster In As Whitey Bulger In 'Black Mass' First Look: Johnny Depp Goes Gangster In As Whitey Bulger In 'Black Mass' Watch: Tom Hanks, Leonardo DiCaprio, Anne Hathaway, Michael Fassbender And More Talk The Art Of Acting Watch: Tom Hanks, Leonardo DiCaprio, Anne Hathaway, Michael Fassbender And More Talk The Art Of Acting Review: Marvel’s ‘Avengers: Age Of Ultron’ Starring Robert Downey Jr. Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson & More Review: Marvel’s ‘Avengers: Age Of Ultron’ Starring Robert Downey Jr. Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson & More Watch: Quentin Tarantino, David Fincher, Christopher Nolan, And More Talk The Art Of Filmmaking Watch: Quentin Tarantino, David Fincher, Christopher Nolan, And More Talk The Art Of Filmmaking Christopher Nolan's Favorite Sequence From His Movies Is The Airplane Kidnapping Scene From 'The Dark Knight Rises' Christopher Nolan's Favorite Sequence From His Movies Is The Airplane Kidnapping Scene From 'The Dark Knight Rises' Joss Whedon Calls Edgar Wright's 'Ant-Man' "The Best Script Marvel Ever Had," Warns Of Serialized Moviemaking Joss Whedon Calls Edgar Wright's 'Ant-Man' "The Best Script Marvel Ever Had," Warns Of Serialized Moviemaking The 41 Most Anticipated Movies Of Summer 2015 The 41 Most Anticipated Movies Of Summer 2015 Watch: First Teaser For 'Star Wars: Rogue One,' Plot Details Confirmed Watch: First Teaser For 'Star Wars: Rogue One,' Plot Details Confirmed The 25 Best Films Of 2015 We've Already Seen The 25 Best Films Of 2015 We've Already Seen Best Of 2014: The 15 Best Movie Soundtracks Of 2014 Best Of 2014: The 15 Best Movie Soundtracks Of 2014 The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki

Review: 'A Cat In Paris' Is A Visually Distinctive Animated Trifle

Photo of Drew Taylor By Drew Taylor | The Playlist June 1, 2012 at 2:01PM

This year, the Best Animated Feature Oscar nominees were a wild bunch indeed – in addition to the big budget studio fare (things like “Puss in Boots” and eventual winner “Rango”), there were two independent, foreign language films (and nothing from powerhouse Pixar). One of those animated films was “A Cat in Paris,” originally released in France way back in 2010, and it’s a charming, darkly hued trifle that offers some truly gorgeous, wholly unique visuals and reasonably emotional storytelling.
0
A Cat In In Paris

This year, the Best Animated Feature Oscar nominees were a wild bunch indeed – in addition to the big budget studio fare (things like “Puss in Boots” and eventual winner “Rango”), there were two independent, foreign language films (and nothing from powerhouse Pixar). One of those animated films was “A Cat in Paris,” originally released in France way back in 2010, and it’s a charming, darkly hued trifle that offers some truly gorgeous, wholly unique visuals and reasonably emotional storytelling.

“A Cat In Paris” (which is preceded by a fantastic, incredibly DIY animated short film called “Extinction of the Saber-Toothed House Cat”) has a really wonderful concept at its core – it’s about Dino, a lovable house cat belonging to a young girl named Zoe, who at night goes out on the prowl with a burglar named Nico (Steven Blum). In the morning, back from his night spent capering, Dino kills lizards and gives them to Zoe, who keeps them in a tin can. During the day she’s left with her caretaker Claudine (Anjelica Huston), while her mother Jeanne (Marcia Gay Harden), goes to work as the superintendent of a local police station. Zoe is mute, emotionally traumatized by the death of her father, a detective, at the hands of villainous gangster Costa (JB Blanc, doing his best Ray Winstone). You can tell this movie is not your average animated kiddie fare when Jeanne, looking at a black-and-white photo of the bad guy that happens to be on the kitchen table in front of young Zoe, says, “Yes, that’s the man who murdered your father.” Spit-take!

A Cat In Paris

Much of the movie is a prolonged chase sequence with a number of moving parts. When Zoe goes out one night to find out what Dino is up to, she gets embroiled with Nico (who, somewhat predictably, has a heart of gold) and, of course, runs afoul of Costa and his goons, while her mother is on the search for Nico, who is wanted for a string of recent burglaries. (The grandmotherly Claudine might have a secret or two herself.) While much of the film is pure motion – people leaping across rooftops and firing guns, it’s peppered throughout by smaller moments that bring out the movie’s humor and humanity. In particular, there’s a great scene where Jeanne is interviewing a witness and she slowly realizes that it’s her cat that has been accompanying the bandit. Another standout is a running gag where Costa assigns nicknames to his lackeys (dubbing one “frog” before finding out that he can’t swim, etc), which casually brings to mind Quentin Tarantino’s “Reservoir Dogs.”

Sometimes the dynamism of the film gets bogged down by the interpersonal melodrama of the characters – now and then it seems overwrought, bordering on the soap-operatic – but there’s little that can stifle the movie’s amazing sense of design and its terrific, distinct animation style, ingeniously orchestrated by directors Jean-Loup Felicoli and Alain Gagnol (Gagnol also wrote the script). Initially it’s hard to peg down what, exactly, the movie looks like – it’s certainly European, and its chalky texture calls to mind a children’s drawing done in colored pencil. The character design is stark and graphic, with the titular cat looking like a hieroglyphic on some ancient pyramid wall. The film owes a certain debt to German expressionism and the exaggerated world of film noir, as inky shadows leap across the screen and characters are often silhouetted against the sharp Parisian skyline. Nico glides in and out of rooms like the goop inside a lava lamp. Occasionally the movie’s extreme artiness acts as a barrier to truly getting involved in the action – for instance, there’s a moment where the characters are running on rooftops and you never feel that anyone will slip up or fall or really be in danger because everything is so beautifully laid out. Although, a couple of scenes later you have Costa violently strangling Janette, which is a moment of shocking brutality – it’s like when Kirk Douglas slaps the shit out of Jan Sterling in “Ace in the Hole,” but animated… and involving a cat.

A Cat In Paris

Another exceptional sequence is when several characters are in a room and the lights go out – at first things are pitch black, but then when they start moving around, you see them in white outlines, like drawings on a chalk board. These moments not only convey information in a playful and stylish way, but also cement directors Felicoli and Gagnol as filmmakers willing to boldly take chances. You can tell they are both tipping their hat to animation of the past (to sequences like the “Elephants on Parade” number in “Dumbo”) while also trying to shake things up with their decidedly European flavor.

There’s also a fair amount of emotional resonance at the end of “A Cat in Paris,” which is nice because, for all its exercises in stylistic embellishment, the movie could have ended up being rather empty and trite. Instead, there’s a much needed dollop of heart towards its conclusion that makes the entire experience of the film seem fuller and more satisfying. From the beginning, it's a cool-looking movie, but by the end it becomes a cool-looking movie that tugs on your heartstrings in a very real way. Which is a more impressive feat than any design choice or esoteric film reference. [B+]

This article is related to: Reviews, A Cat In Paris


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates