A Cat in Paris: Film Review

Courtesy of GKids
This unexpected Best Animated Feature Oscar nominee is sleek, stylish animated escapade that makes vivid, affecting use of its brief running time.

One of the year’s two Best Animated Feature nominees that took Oscar prognosticators by complete surprise (the other was Chico & Rita), the French-language A Cat in Paris (Une Vie de Chat), is a delightfully stylized caper involving a mute little girl, her pet cat and a cat burglar.

Owing a sly tip of the beret to influences running the gamut from Matisse to Tarantino, the hand-drawn “policier” may not be the most inspired animated import to have crossed our shores (compared to, say, The Triplets of Belleville or The Illusionist) but it nevertheless casts a beguiling spell without requiring 3D glasses or a mass of merchandising.

While it remains to be seen whether that’s enough to take on Puss in Boots and company, A Cat in Paris—slated to be released domestically later this year through GKIDS—has a couple of things going in its favor.

The first is the rare absence of a Pixar threat this year, what with Cars 2 failing to make it through the starting gate.

The second is the Academy’s apparent ongoing love affair with a certain brand of French nostalgia, also generously served up by The Artist, Hugo and Midnight in Paris.

Speaking of the latter, much of this one-hour film takes place during the nocturnal hours across the shadowy rooftops of Paris where Nico (voiced by Bruno Salomone, who happens to play in a band with The Artist’s Jean Dujardin) flees with a rubbery grace after pinching loot from the homes of his sleeping victims.

He’s usually joined on his exploits by Dino, a black cat who leads a double life.

During the daylight hours Dino cuddles up beside Zoe (Oriane Zani), a lonely little girl who has been rendered mute following the death of her father at the hands of Victor Costa (Jean Benguigui), a bully of a gangster who’ll stop at nothing to get his hands on a rare statue known as the Colossus of Nairobi.

Meanwhile Zoe’s widowed mom (Dominique Blanc) a detective in the Parisian police force, is determined to put Costa away for good, and she ends up getting assistance from some an unanticipated direction.

Incorporating an angular graphic style that recalls the work of virtuoso movie title sequence designer Saul Bass, directors Jean-Loup Felicioli and Alain Gagnol have created a jazzy, noir-tinged storybook rendition of a mythical Paris, backed by a Bernard Herrmann-esque score and a title character that struts its stuff like Audrey Hepburn circa Stanley Donen’s Charade.

Opens: TBD  (GKIDS)

Production companies: Folimage, Lunanime – Lumiere, Digit Anima, France 3 Cinema, Rhone-Alpes Cinema, RTBF (Belgian Television)

Voices: Dominique Blanc, Bruno Salomone, Jean Benguigui, Bernadette Lafont, Oriane Zani

Directors: Jean-Loup Felicioli, Alain Gagnol

Screenwriters: Alain Gagnol, Jacques-Remy Girerd

Executive producer: Emmanuel Bernard

Producer: Jacques-Remy Girerd

Music: Serge Besset

Editor: Herve Guichard

Not rated, 61 minutes.