June 1, 2012 at 9:36 am #62774
Ignoring Laws of Physics as They Run Across Roofs
‘A Cat in Paris,’ the Animated French Film
NYT Critics’ Pick
A scene from “A Cat in Paris.”
By A. O. SCOTT
Published: May 31, 2012
“A Cat in Paris”
is a nifty little caper in which blustery gangsters, intrepid
detectives, cat burglars (one of them literally feline) and a little
girl named Zoé scamper across nighttime rooftops unraveling a pleasantly
tangled plot. The film, just about an hour long and directed by the
French animation team of Jean-Loup Felicioli and Alain Gagnol, is also a
refreshing reminder, at a time of large-scale, highly polished
cinematic spectacle, of the essential, elemental sources of
The film is directed by Jean-Loup Felicioll and Alain Gagnol.
A movie is a story told in pictures; a
cartoon, however digitally torqued and dimensionally expanded, is
essentially a bunch of drawings. The images in “A Cat in Paris” are
pointedly and delightfully off-kilter and out of proportion. Feet are
much too small for bodies. Perspectives shift and slide. Apparently
solid objects have a tendency to wobble. The laws of physics are
brazenly flouted as Mr. Felicioli and Mr. Gagnol take splendid advantage
of the freedom that animation can offer to the hand, the eye and the
But amid the anarchy are also rigor, an
attention to emotional nuance and narrative detail that make the film
satisfying as well as charming. The cat, Dino, divides his time between
two human companions. At night, he is the accomplice to an honorable,
nimble thief named Nico. When morning comes, he snuggles up with Zoé,
bringing her freshly killed lizards (and in one instance a freshly
stolen bracelet) as tribute.
Zoé lives with her overworked mother,
Jeanne, and is looked after by a suspiciously outgoing housekeeper.
Jeanne is a police detective, as was her husband, killed in the line of
duty by Victor Costa, a criminal mastermind currently plotting a
big-time art heist.
Since her father’s death, Zoé has not spoken
a word, but her face — a minimal composition of a few lines and circles
topped by a curve of orange hair — expresses all the feelings of a
lonely, sensitive child.
Like a fairy tale heroine, Zoé is drawn into
a wild and dangerous adventure that tests her resourcefulness and
rewards her sound moral instincts. The plot has the pleasing complexity
of a mechanical toy — the pieces click together nicely, and the whole
contraption zigzags according to its own whimsical logic — and the
filmmakers find many opportunities for mildly surrealist visual
When the lights go out, characters turn into
chalk outlines on a black background. Fantasies occasionally take
literal form, as when Jeanne imagines her nemesis, Costa, as a giant red
Costa himself suffers a hallucination that
turns “A Cat in Paris” briefly into a monster movie. The close-set,
odd-angled buildings of Paris are lovingly rendered, as are the gargoyles of Notre Dame, who solemnly observe a climactic sequence of high-altitude score settling.
Children watching “A Cat In Paris” may
experience a few moments of fright and sorrow — there is gunfire, and
Dino’s murder of innocent lizards is celebrated rather than condemned —
but they are also likely to be captivated by its elegant mixture of
gravity and mischief.
As are adults, since there is very little of
the noisy, sentimental pandering that is too often a feature of
kid-targeted entertainment nowadays. This movie is graceful, subtle and
sure-footed, much as its English title implies.
“A Cat in Paris” is rated PG (Parental guidance suggested). Some scary, sad stuff.
A Cat in Paris
Opens on Friday in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego.June 1, 2012 at 11:20 am #62776
I am so looking forward to finally being able to see this film.June 2, 2012 at 12:16 am #62777
I loved it!June 3, 2012 at 4:55 pm #62778
A review from Slate.com
A Cat in Paris
A charming French animated film about a girl and a cat who break up a crime ring.
By Dana Stevens|Posted Friday, June 1, 2012, at 6:18 PM ET
A Cat in Paris
Still courtesy of Folimage Studio D’animation.
You know how, at Oscar time, there’s always at least one foreign
nominee in the animated-picture category that doesn’t win, never gets a
U.S. release, and lingers in your mind only as “the one that looked good
in the montage?” The French nominee A Cat in Paris was my 2011 “one that looked good in the montage,” and though it didn’t win (the prize went to Gore Verbinski’s Rango),
an English-language version of the film has now found a limited release
in the United States, with a possibility of opening wider later in the
year. I hope A Cat in Paris, directed by Jean-Loup Felicioli and Alain Gagnol, does well at the box office even if it’s no Gallic miracle a la Triplets of Belleville,
because it would be a fine thing to have more chances to see foreign
animation on American screens. This elegantly hand-drawn caper doesn’t
have a lot to it—a little girl and her cat help break up a Parisian
crime ring, un point c’est tout. But it moves to a different
rhythm than the animated spectacles we’re used to—it’s sparer, less
hectic, less cute—and the difference feels welcome and refreshing.
Though A Cat in Paris is visually sleek, with simply drawn, elongated figures that recall the picture books of Maira Kalman,
it errs on the overstuffed side when it comes to plot. There’s a lot to
keep track of: In the main plot, a little girl, Zoe (voiced by Lauren
Weintraub), has gone mute with grief after her father’s murder. Zoe’s
mother, Jeanne (Marcia Gay Harden), a police detective, is leading the
search for her dead husband’s killer (conflict of interest much?) and
becoming so obsessed with the case that she’s neglecting her lonely,
miserable daughter. Zoe’s new babysitter, Claudine (Anjelica Huston),
seems nice enough, but her cat Dino (who, in macabre but realistically
feline fashion, brings her a tribute of a dead lizard every day) is her
only real friend.
In a separate but interlocking story, Dino the cat has a secret life:
At night he steals away and joins a skilled thief, Nico (Steve Blum),
on his nightly burgling missions, sneaking across rooftops and breaking
into safes. Meanwhile, the suspected killer of Zoe’s father, crime boss
Victor Costa (voiced by Michael Caine-soundalike J.B. Blanc) is scheming
to steal a priceless art treasure known as the Colossus of Nairobi.
When Zoe is kidnapped by the gangster after eavesdropping on his
nefarious plans, Nico and the cat must team up to save her (and to
convince her mother that Nico, pilfering tendencies aside, isn’t one of
the bad guys).
Sections of A Cat in Paris feel draggy even at the
abbreviated running time of 65 minutes. But in the best parts, the
crisscrossing plot strands all pause for a moment, and we just get to
watch and listen to what’s going on in this stylishly imagined world. A
woman sprays on too much perfume, and a cloud of the scent floats out a
window, assuming the shape of a ghostly female figure. Later, the lights
in a room go out, and the shapes of the characters stumbling through
the dark are shown as white outlines against a solid black screen,
enabling the audience to “see in the dark”—a clever use of the
possibilities opened up by animation. Yes, this movie’s homages to le film noir américain
are sometimes less whimsical tributes than straight-up lifts (as when
Victor Costa’s thugs object to the childish nicknames he assigns them, a
joke familiar from Reservoir Dogs’ “Mr. Pink” scene.) And yes,
the final chase atop an iconic world monument is an action cliché by
now—but when the site in question is Notre Dame cathedral by moonlight,
with villains and heroes leaping nimbly from gargoyle to gargoyle,
somehow all is forgiven.
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