Monday, February 28, 2011

NYICFF ’11: A Cat in Paris

Paris is a playground for an adventurous cat like Dino. By day, he is the loyal tabby of the police superintendent’s daughter. By night, he joins the nocturnal adventures of an actual cat burglar, climbing the city’s ornate masonry and gothic gargoyles. The City of Lights rarely looked as beautiful on the big screen as it does in Alain Gagnol and Jean-Loup Feliciolli’s animated feature A Cat in Paris (trailer here), which has its American premiere at the 2011 New York International Film Festival.

Young Zoe has not spoken a word since her father was murdered by gangster Victor Costa. Her copper mother is too busy working the case to help her adequately work through her grief. She spends most her time with Dino, who enjoys bringing her little presents, like small dead animals and the occasional diamond bracelet. One night Zoe follows on Dino as he slinks off to join the Rafflesesque Nico, only to stumble across the Costa gang. The chase is on, across the stylishly rendered Parisian cityscape.

The hand-drawn Cat is a wonderful antidote for the mass-produced computer animation constantly dumped into multiplexes. These figures have an idiosyncratic look that deliberately evokes a sophisticated Parisian sensibility. If Toulouse Lautrec was resurrected to craft an animated film, he would probably look up Gagnol and Feliciolli.

Indeed, the city is an integral part of film, right down to its fitting conclusion at Notre Dame. Though clearly produced with young viewers in mind, the romantic urban backdrops, the hat-tips to film noir, and the jazz-influenced soundtrack (including a vintage Billie Holiday rendition of “I Wished on the Moon”) will keep parents and other ostensive adults quite engaged. A well constructed feature, Gagnol and Feliciolli maintain a brisk pace, while showing the action from dramatic angles that further heightens the noir appeal.

Cat is a thoroughly charming film with genuine heart and just enough attitude to avoid cloyingness. Though admittedly brief at sixty-five minutes, it packs a lot into that time, including some very cool closing credits. NYICFF and gKids have a good eye for animated features, having previously selected intelligent and artfully crafted features like Sita Sings the Blues and In the Attic for previous festivals. The tradition continues this year with Cat and some first-rate anime imports. Highly recommended, Cat screens at NYICFF on March 5th, 6th, 12th, 13, and 19th, but it appears tickets are only still available for Saturday the 12th, so act fast.