A Cat in Paris (Une vie de chat) is a 2010 French animated adventure/crime film by the French animation studio Folimage, telling the story of a young Parisian girl whose cat leads her to unravel a thrilling mystery over the course of a single evening. The film was directed by Alain Gagnol and Jean-Loup Felicioli.
A Cat in Paris was first screened on October 15, 2010 at the Saint-Quentin Ciné-Jeune Film Festival. It was released in French theaters on December 15, 2010. International distribution is by Films Distribution, Paris.
The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. Along with Chico and Rita, it became one of two foreign-language films nominated for Best Animated Feature in one year, an Academy first that many observers considered a surprise. The film has also received a nomination for the Cesar Award for Best Animated Film in 2011.
Nico is a burglar who sneaks into buildings and steals jewels. Nico is always followed by a black cat. The following morning, the cat wakes in a house with a little girl, catches a lizard and gives it to the girl. Zoé, hearing Jeanne, her mother, calls her to come in and look at her lizards, but Jeanne is too busy on the phone to take much notice of what she is shown. At nightfall, the cat leaves and goes to find Nico.
Nico gives the cat a fish-shaped bracelet, which it gives to Zoé. Her mother sees the bracelet and asks Zoé to give it to her. Before leaving, Zoé sees a picture in her mother's dossier of a man called Victor Costa. Jeanne takes the bracelet and gives it to Lucas, a colleague of hers at the police station, who asks her to see if it matches up to any of the items stolen at one of the most recent burglaries in the Rue Mouffetard. Jeanne is commissioned to handle the security of a huge African statue that has been the target of M. Costa and that cost her husband his life. The statue is being moved soon and will be the last opportunity for Costa to get his hands on it.
Victor Costa has indeed been planning how to steal the statue with his minions, M. Bébé (Mr. Baby), M. Hulot (Mr. Bean), M. Grenouille (Mr. Frog), and M. Patate (Mr. Potato). When the bracelet turn ups, Lucas follows the lead to Nico's place. Claudine has been watching Zoé, but fails to notice that she has followed the cat. While following the cat, Zoé discovers that Claudine is actually a member of his gang and has been working as a nanny to gain insight into what the police are planning. The thieves discover Zoé, who hides in Nico’s house. M. Costa nearly discovers Zoé but at the last minute one of his minions calls for him to come down to the cellar, where they have discovered Nico’s cache. Zoé tries to leave but she is caught by Claudine. At the last minute Nico returns, and locks the mobsters in the cellar. Nico escapes with Zoé on his back, jumping over the roof tops with M. Costa and his gang in pursuit after breaking down the cellar door. Nico leaves Zoé near the zoo, telling her that she must follow the cat back to his place while he distracts the thieves. The gang is close by and they all follow Nico. M. Costa, however, discovers a piece of Zoé’s t-shirt in the bushes and orders M. Grenouille to follow him. The two of them come close to catching Zoé, but she reaches a pond and escapes in a boat because neither M. Costa nor M. Grenouille can swim after her.
Lucas, who has been following the cat lead, is told by one of Jeanne's neighbors that the cat always comes out of a house nearby and goes to another, where it annoys everyone by causing her dog to bark. Lucas calls Jeanne to come to her own house because it is related to the burglaries. After she arrives, they head up to Nico’s to wait. After shaking the rest of the gang, Nico goes back to his place and finds Zoé there. As he is about to enter the house, he is arrested by Jeanne and Lucas. Claudine tells Jeanne that Nico kidnapped Zoé. Jeanne and Lucas take away Nico in their police car, and while driving to the station, Nico tells Jeanne that she made a mistake about Claudine and that Zoé is in great danger. He gets the cat to attack Lucas who is driving and uses the opportunity to grab Jeanne’s gun and take command of the situation. After stopping the car, he tells Jeanne that he is going to catch Costa and save Zoé. Jeanne begins to suspect that what Nico had told them was true, and orders Lucas to take her home. As they arrive, they see that indeed Zoé and Claudine are not there.
Claudine has taken Zoé to M. Costa’s house where they have her locked in one of the rooms. While the gang drinks champagne, Claudine applies more of her usual perfume, making everyone sick. They open a window, allowing the scent to reach Nico and the cat, who always sneezes at Claudine’s perfume. Nico follows the trail of the scent to M. Costa's house. After cutting the power, he puts on his usual night goggles, sneaks into the house, and whisks Zoé away right from under the nose of M. Patate who has been sulking because he was stuck with the child and was not able to drink champagne with the rest of the gang. At the last moment Nico’s presence is discovered and once again he escapes with Zoé over the roof tops with M. Costa in pursuit. The chase takes them up to Notre Dame de Paris. Nico leaves Zoé in one of the terraces and teases Costa to go after him. While climbing, they both reach for gargoyles and start to fall because the gargoyles cannot take the weight of each man. Costa is saved after grabbing another gargoyle, while Nico is saved by Jeanne who has just arrived at the scene.
Costa manages to trap Zoé again and jumps over to a nearby crane followed by Jeanne, Nico, and the cat. Costa manages to push the cat over the edge and Nico jumps to save it, leaving Jeanne to confront Costa by herself. Jeanne has been having waking nightmares about Costa but she rises above them and uses her personal defense training to free Zoé and disorient Costa, who falls from the crane. With the help of Nico, Jeanne tries to save Costa by grabbing him by his shirt Costa bangs his head against the crane very hard and has a hallucination that the giant statue has come to rescue him. He jumps off the crane’s hook into the hands of the imaginary statue, which suddenly vanishes, and Costa falls to his death. The rest of the gang, including Claudine, are arrested. In the excitement Zoé has started talking again.
In the final scene, it is winter, and the cat goes over to Nico’s place, but is instead let in by Jeanne at the window. It is clear that Jeanne, Zoé, and Nico are now a new family. Nico gives a gift to Jeanne, a snow globe with Notre Dame in it.
|Character||Original French||English dub|
|Jeanne, a police commissair and Zoé's mother||Dominique Blanc||Marcia Gay Harden|
|Nico, a cat burglar||Bruno Salomone||Steven Blum|
|Victor Costa||Jean Benguigui||J.B. Blanc|
|Claudine, Zoé's Nanny||Bernadette Lafont||Anjelica Huston|
|Zoé||Oriane Zani||Lauren Weintraub|
|Lucas||Bernard Bouillon||Matthew Modine|
|Monsieur Bébé (English name: Mr. Baby)||Jacques Ramade||Mike Pollock|
|Monsieur Hulot||Jean-Pierre Yvars||Philippe Hartmann|
Prior to the Oscar nomination, the film was little-seen in the United States, although it screened at a few children's film festivals. The New York Times called it "a gorgeous hand-drawn feature that is one of the highlights of this festival. ... Without being too frightening, it projects a sense of danger, both physical and emotional, that is more engaging than the high-pitched thrills of the domestic films."
Time Out Chicago Kids gave the film four out of five stars, describing how "this cartoon noir distills Hitchcock into 64 brisk minutes for middle-schoolers and up"; the review elaborated that the film "announces its retro visual style with a dynamic title sequence that zips across the screen, bursting with Saul Bass-influenced dynamism." It also noted that, despite the title given to the film in English-speaking countries, "its French title, Une Vie de Chat, translates as A Cat's Life."
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