This weekend I managed to watch two French animated features. Both were released in 2010 and are surprisingly good.
Une Vie de Chat
Une Vie de Chat (lit. One Life of Cat, released in English as A Cat in Paris) is a film directed by Alain Gagnol and Jean-Loup Felicioli. The film follows the life of a cat who is a cuddling pet for a small girl, Zoé, during the day. However, as the darkness falls, the cat becomes a sidekick to a cat-burglar as he goes around tiptoeing into vaults of Paris. Zoé’s father was killed by the antagonist, Victor Costa and her mother, Jeanne, a police commissioner, is on his trail. Meanwhile, the safety of Victor Costa’s object of affection, a fetish called Colossas of Nairobi, a priceless piece of art, has been entrusted to Jeanne’s department.
The French animation studio Folimage animated the feature. The art style unmistakably borrows from the impressionist movement in Europe. At times, it reminded me of Madeline. The fetish also reminded me of Tintin’s The Broken Ear.
The movie was nominated for Best Animated Film – Oscar in 2011. Clocking at about 64 minutes, this is a relatively short feature film. It was definitely fun to watch.
L’Illusionniste or The Illusionist is a film directed by Sylvain Chomet. It is based on an unfinished work by Jacques Tati. A caricature of Tati is the main protagonist of the film. Tati, a struggling magician / illusionist works under the stage name Tatischeff. While performing in a Scottish bar, he manages to captivate the attention of a young girl, Alice, using his magic. Alice, in her simple mindedness, believes that Tati can really do supernatural things. She decides to quietly follow him. Tati struggles to get contracts, like his fellow, old world, entertainers (a ventriloquist, a clown and three acrobats). While Alice is oblivious to this fact, Tati somehow manages to give her all until he has nothing more to give.
The film is better of the two and in its own tranquil pace, takes the viewer through a bittersweet journey. At times, I felt like I was watching a Charlie Chaplin movie with comedy on surface but something sad, something deeper as an underlying subtext. The animation was done by the director’s own studio and is filled with lush watercolour-esque backdrops. The following image almost reminded me of The Black Island cover by Hergé.
The movie was nominated for Best Animated Film – Oscar in 2010. There is a deep sense of emptiness that will linger in the viewer after watching the movie. Near the end, Tati voluntary restrains himself from showing a trick to a small child. Somehow, that sense of joy in his art was lost. He was ready to move on.
I would definitely recommend both the movies.