Three Imaginary Girls

Seattle's Indie-Pop Press – Music Reviews, Film Reviews, and Big Fun

A Cat in Paris

I sometimes like to play a little game while watching animated films called “Why Is This Movie Animated?” Animation is not a genre—we can all agree on this, yes? There are roughly as many genres of animated films as live-action ones, and all sorts of reasons to animate besides getting kids in a theater. But especially as the price of special effects goes down, I’m sometimes curious why someone would decide a story is best told with drawings rather than actors.

A Cat in Paris was good for this game. Though the style of animation isn’t photorealistic at all (it’s much more stylized and primitive), it conveys the feeling of reality faithfully, with subtle details like moonlight shadows on the folds of clothing. Very few things happen that couldn’t as easily be filmed as drawn—a couple of minor script tweaks and you’re there. And finally, the plot feels so familiar that I’m surprised I can’t think of a particular film with the same story. It goes like this: Zoe is a girl who’s stopped speaking since her father was killed. Her mother is a police officer intent on catching the killer. And a cat burglar, who’s accompanied by Zoe’s cat while she sleeps, gets mixed up in the case.

On at least one level, I suspect the filmmakers are in it as much for the artistry as anything else, but here’s my take: I think the animation gives the movie a softer touch and gentler feel than it would likely have had in live action. I watched the movie with my 4-year-old son (who gave a bonus review, below!), and though the plot got pretty heavy at times, he never felt nervous for the characters, even when he wasn’t sure who was good or bad, and even though he understood that Zoe was very sad, and even when the characters were in danger. The style is reassuring. And the times when the animators really took advantage of their artistic freedom gave a lot of lightness and breeziness to what was sometimes a fairly dark plot. The cat burglar tripping airily along the rooftops of Paris, a telltale waft of perfume, and a particularly witty sequence that takes place in pitch dark were all nice little treats.

I hope I’m not giving the impression that the film invites overanalysis, though. It’s a sweet, fanciful, and touching little movie. And now I’ll turn it over to Guest Reviewer Olen Baumfeld, whose opinions I’ll summarize for you in bullet form:

– I loved everything. There’s nothing I didn’t like.
– I liked that it was snowing.
– I liked when that guy saved Zoe.
– It was very funny when the people in the dark said “Hey, there’s something moving there! I wonder what that is!”
– I thought the cat on the face was very funny.

I don’t think I have anything to add to that.

{A Cat in Paris screens at SIFF on May 30th, 1:00pm at the Everett Performing Arts Center, on June 5th, 1:00pm at the Kirkland Performance Center, and on June 11th, 11:00am at the Egyptian Theatre}