A Cat in Paris (or Une Vie de Chat in its original French) is a hand-drawn gem of modern animation. Created by the French animation studio, Folimage, the film keeps to beautiful 2D animation and tells a rich story in a very short amount of time. It was nominated for best animated feature in 2011 and creates a just enough danger and mystery without making the film too scary for children.
The film has a very lean plot that may not grab the youngest viewers. In Paris, Zoe has a cat who wanders off every night. She and her mother don’t know that he helps a thief, Nico, a man who recently has been stealing art and jewels. At home, Zoe is mostly taken care of by the housekeeper, while her mother works hard as a detective. Recently, Zoe’s father was killed by a gangster, Victor Costa, and her mother desperately wants to bring justice to him. When Zoe decides to follow her cat on his nightly journey, she stumbles into Costa’s latest plot and needs to be rescued by her cat and his new friend.
In just over an hour, the film wastes no time packing all this action and creating memorable scenes, characters and very beautiful animation. Just like in Zoe’s life, there isn’t much needless fluff. Conversations with her mother are short and to the point. Costa and his men don’t play around, if they did they might not have seemed so dangerous. And there is no time for songs like in many animated films, here it would detract from the beautiful simplicity of the film.
While it’s animation can seem rather simplistic, it also has a highly artistic feel and brings unexpected beauty, especially in the climax. With a film set in Paris, it’s impossible not to think of artists to compare this style of animation to. The credits especially reminded me of Saul Bass’ work in film and the clean, geometric style reminds me of many modern artists with a dash of Picasso. And when the action takes us to the rooftops of Paris and Notre Dame, the animation keeps up wonderfully, breathing new life into the familiar scenes.
Though A Cat in Paris may not become a quick favorite for most children, it’s worth a watch and suitable for the whole family (and in English on Netflix Instant). Who knows, with the artistic style, the slightly noir story and Hitchcock influences, the film could bring some be a new and wonderful influence in a child’s film vocabulary. This didn’t beat Cars 2 out of the best animated film Oscar nomination for nothing.
“It’s the daughter, she heard everything!”