Saturday, November 24, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—A Cat in Paris (2012) ***½

PG, 70 min.
Directors: Jean-Loup Felicioli, Alain Gagnol
Writers: Alain Gagnol, Jacques-Rémy Girerd, Michael Sinterniklaas (English adaptation)
Voices: Marcia-Gay Harden, Anjelica Huston, Steve Blum, JB Blanc, Matthew Modine

“A Cat in Paris” is the second of the two foreign made animated features nominated for an Oscar last year. American animation has a long tradition of never straying from the standard styles of animation that are popular with children. Foreign animators seem to be less afraid of truly exploring the artistic possibilities of the format, less afraid of trying something different, less afraid of scaring audiences away. That frees them to make original looking films that are both entertaining and artistically satisfying.

“A Cat in Paris” tells a simple enough story of coincidences. It involves a cat who lives two lives, one with a little girl who doesn’t see her single mother much because her work on the police force keeps her very busy, the other with a jewel thief. The cat spends its days with the girl and sneaks off at night to aid the burglar in his heists. It’s not hard to figure that the cat’s two families will eventually cross paths. The way they do isn’t predictable, however.

The animation style is what really makes this movie a pleasure, though. Part of the plot involves a piece of artwork and much of the hand drawn animation is reminiscent of some abstract artwork. The people don’t necessarily move the way people really do. The thief has a way of waving his limbs around like a snake that allows him to elude capture with even more ease than someone who did the typical tip-toe work of a thief.

I was surprised at how violent the film is. It is clear from the names of the French production companies involved in its making that it is intended for children, and there isn’t really anything too harmful in it. There’s more criminal activity and gunfire than you might find in a U.S. kids flick, but the central character here is a child, and it deals with issues a child might have on their plate. It works for adults too. I would imagine many American viewers might have trouble adjusting to what might seem like a more childlike animation style, but it is animation with style. That might be what we really have trouble adjusting to.

The movie has been dubbed into English with some known American voices. The English version is what plays on Netflix Instant. 

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