Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A CAT IN PARIS: Jean-Loup Felicioli & Alain Gagnol's Oscar-nominated animation opens

By the time that last year's Academy Awards were upon us, audiences had been able to see four of the five nominated animated films: the three Hollywood mainstreamers (Rango. which won, Puss in Boots and Kung Fu Panda 2) and the little Spanish/Cuban lovely, Chico & Rita. But what about that fifth film -- of which nobody seemed to have heard anything -- a little movie called A CAT IN PARIS? Now we know.

Directed by Jean-Loup Felicioli and Alain Gagnol (shown above, with M. Felicioli on the left) and written by M. Gagnol and Jacques-Rémy Girerd, this 67-minute round of non-stop, stylized and stylish, hand-drawn animation is a visual treat of major propor-tions in the guise of a minor kids' adventure. The film's original French title, Une vie de chat (A Cat's Life) is funnier and more ironic than its English counterpart (of course the cat's in Paris; that's where it lives).

TrustMovies took his 7-year-old grand-daughter to the screening, and she pronounced the film "very good; I liked it a lot." Fortunately, its distributor GKIDS is releasing the film in both dubbed and French-language/English-subtitled versions. We saw the dubbed one, which was done quite well, with the likes of Marcia Gay Harden, Matthew Modine and Angelica Huston handling the voices.

You might call the story, which said grand-daughter found "a little scary," a kind of police procedural for kids. It has to do with a young girl named Zoe (above) who, due to a fairly recent traumatic experience (unseen on screen), has lost her ability and/or will to speak. While at work, Mom leaves Zoe with a housekeeper and her pet cat, Dino, who, it turns out, has quite the active night life. I've often heard that cats are nocturnal creatures; this one defines the lifestyle.

Art theft, rooftop chases, kidnapping and more ensue, and the clever, economical but often quite gorgeous animation -- which is definitely the star of this show -- makes everything eye-poppingly watchable. Ah, the Parisian night scenes (above), or the wonderfully rendered change of seasons (below)! On the other hand, the animation is nicely subtle and suggestive (notice how the artists indicate whiskers and other facial and body hair). There's always a smart sense of humor at work here, too.

Not that the kids'll notice, but the movie includes some nice take-offs of film noir, along with everything else it manages (including an initial Mission Impossible-like robbery). This stuff is for the attending parents, who will probably be film buffs in their own right (or they wouldn't be taking their kids to see non-Hollywood animation). Note: as both the English-dubbed and English-subtitled versions will be shown, make sure you know which one is playing at the particular screening time you've chosen. Unless the kids are older (or are very advanced), they may not be able to keep up with the English subtitles....

A Cat in Paris, which is a special treat for those of us who still love hand-drawn animation, opens this Friday, June 1, in New York City (the Angelika Film Center and the AMC Empire 25) and at Land-mark theaters in Los Angeles (NuArt), San Diego (Ken Cinema), Berkeley (Shattuck Cinemas) and San Francisco (one of the Landmarks; at this point they're not telling us which).  The movie will be opening elsewhere all across the country over the summer. Click here to see currently scheduled playdates, cities and theaters.

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