‘A Cat in Paris’ (2011)

One of this year’s left-field nominees for the Academy Award for Animated Feature was the French film A Cat in Paris (Une Vie de Chat, or “a cat’s life”), now available on a Region 1 DVD/Blu-Ray combo. The hand-drawn animation presents a flat, geometrically designed image of buildings and people colored by soft pastel crayons. The story is basic: a comically bad man, responsible for killing the heroine’s policeman father, creates trouble until he’s caught by the silent girl, her ornery cat, and a cat burglar in a big climax at Notre Dame Cathedral.

Many U.S. critics fell over themselves praising it as a sophisticated delight, though I suspect they’d like anything so “Parisian”, especially when the soundtrack throws in a Billie Holiday song, and it’s almost a point of honor to champion something from outside the mainstream digital factory that doesn’t completely smack you about the head and face. Honestly, I found the story silly, the characters dull, the motives and resolutions simple, and the cat unremarkable. On the plus side, it’s only an hour long and some of the images are indeed a visual pleasure, especially in the last ten minutes.

Viewers can choose the original French soundtrack or the American track with Marcia Gay Harden, Anjelica Huston and Matthew Modine. Extras on the disc are pretty art of previous incarnations of the script, and an excellent short called Extinction of the Saber-Toothed Housecat, which nicely blends an absurdly fat animated feline with live-action photography.

RATING 5 / 10