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A Cat in Paris: movie review (+trailer)

A Cat in Paris: This Parisian cat's tale is sweet and inventive animated film, with a dash of noir.

A Cat in Paris
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“A Cat in Paris,” recently nominated for the best animated feature Oscar, is a lovely surprise. Best of all, it’s a lovely surprise in 2-D. You do remember 2-D, don’t you?

Both a French and an English version are getting theatrical release. I saw the English version, accompanied by the voice work of, among lesser lights, Marcia Gay Harden, Anjelica Huston, and Matthew Modine. Whichever version you end up seeing, the star attraction here is the quietly elegant, occasionally near-abstract visual design, with its links to artists as diverse as Picasso, Edward Hopper, Ben Shahn, Modigliani, and Matisse.

These visual references are for the delectation of the cognoscenti, but directors Jean-Loup Felicioli and Alain Gagnol aren’t conducting a tutorial here. The references function as art history in-jokes and touchstones; but even if you don’t pick up on them (as most children won’t), it doesn’t really matter. It also doesn’t matter if you don’t recognize the vast array of allusions to classic Hollywood film noir movies, or neonoirs like “Reservoir Dogs” or “Goodfellas.” Either way, this cornucopia works for all ages, all levels of learning.

Dino is a cat with a double life. A housebound kitty by day, he lives with Zoe in the Paris apartment she shares with her mother, Jeanne (Harden), a police superintendent whose husband, also on the police force, was murdered by big-shot gangster Victor Costa (J.B. Blanc).

Traumatized by the loss of her father, Zoe has been mute ever since. By night Dino slips outside through Zoe’s window and makes the rounds with fleet-footed cat burglar Nico (Steve Blum), who adopts the cat as a kind of mascot. When Zoe decides to follow Dino, she falls into the clutches of Victor as he is simultaneously being pursued by Jeanne for her husband’s murder. It takes the combined efforts of Jeanne, Nico, and Dino to wrest the girl free and save the day (and night).


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