A Cat in Paris/Une Vie de Chat


Directed by Jean-Loup Felicioli and Alain Gagnol. Voices of Dominique Blanc, Bernadette Lafont G cert, QFT, Belfast; IFI, Dublin, 70 min

THE MAKERS of this lively French animation owe Pixar a debt for tripping up with the useless Cars 2. When that film failed to secure the Oscar nomination traditionally allotted to the great studio, A Cat in Paris found itself shortlisted for best animated feature.

It’s a decent little film. The animation has an angular, expressionistic feel. The story trundles along at an acceptable pace. But nobody is likely to confuse A Cat in Paris with top- flight Gallic animation such as Belleville Rendez-Vous.

Set in a flat, romantic version of Paris, the film concerns itself with Jeanne, a police officer, and Zoé, her withdrawn, mute daughter. A sinister crime boss has, some months before, murdered the poor girl’s father and she is yet to reconnect with the world.

Zoé’s best friend, a smart, unsentimental cat, has divided loyalties. When night falls, he sneaks along the back fence and visits Nico, a cat burglar, who lives nearby. As events progress, Nico’s world begins to intertwine with that of the murderous kingpin and Zoé finds a route out of her torpor.

The film is packed with moments of delicious invention. When the characters don night-vision spectacles, the images take on the quality of chalk drawings. The cat has a hilarious relationship with a tiny dog who turns into a ball of fury every time his enemy passes by on the fence.

The picture feature sharp edges and bold blocks, but always remain warm enough to avoid alienating younger viewers. More than anything else, the style suggests the suave title sequences that used to introduce comedies in the 1950s. Saul Bass, master of that genre, would have enjoyed A Cat in Paris.

It also manages to include a decent collection of humorous references to stubborn movie clichés: the hoodlums argue over code names like the characters in Reservoir Dogs; the rooftop chases remind us of Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief.

For all those flourishes, A Cat in Paris does feel a little lightweight – and, at 70 minutes, a little short – to venture unaccompanied into commercial cinemas. Still, a pleasant little trifle.