As sleek, assured and stylish as the feline of its title, “A Cat in Paris” is a neo-noir romp through the dark side of the City of Light, something adults and their children might equally enjoy. An Oscar nominee for best animated feature (though it’s barely feature length), “Cat” won’t win any prizes for narrative ingenuity. But the French film has a visual savoir faire that more than compensates for some storybook simplicity.
Like many “stray” cats, the sly one here has multiple homes. During the day, he hangs out with a young girl, Zoe, who calls him Dino. At night, he leaps out the window and bounds across the rooftop to his other “owner,” a man named Nico, who doesn’t call him anything.
Both are very interesting humans. Zoe is mute, traumatized by the murder of her policeman father by a master criminal named Victor Costa. Her mother, Jeanne, a police superintendent, is determined to find Costa, and vengeance. Nico, meanwhile, has his own interesting job: he’s — ahem — a cat burglar, who’s accompanied on the job each night by Dino.
Their pilfering jaunts are the movie’s highlights, as they leap with gravity-defying, parkour grace along the Paris skyline. The whole look of the hand-rendered film is a rapture of stylization, from the black-and-white silhouettes of chimneys in the opening credits to the elegantly cartoonish look of the humans (rounded bodies, hilariously tiny feet).
With Dino as their link, Zoe and Nico (extremely sensitive and nurturing, as criminals go) meet and have a very busy night on the rooftops, pursued both by Zoe’s mother and by Costa and his gang of four dim thugs. There’s also a two-faced additional villain, whose identity shouldn’t be spoiled. You might not be surprised that it all ends with a vertiginous chase around the gargoyle-ripe spires of Notre Dame.
As the PG rating suggests, the movie is child-friendly — but only if it’s a child who can deal with the notion of a parent’s (offscreen) murder. The movie also features a couple of mildly scary fantasies that Jeanne has, seeing her nemesis Costa as a floating scarlet octopus.
In order to be more child-friendly in the States, this is an English-dubbed version. Which means it loses a little of its Gallic flavor along with the subtitles. Even so, “Cat” has panache to spare, with a jazzy score and the occasional riff by Billie Holiday on the soundtrack. The movie has some of the cultural flavor, and more authenticity, than Woody Allen’s guilty pleasure, “Midnight in Paris.”
“A Cat in Paris.” With the voices of Marcia Gay Harden, Anjelica Huston, Matthew Modine. Directed by Jean-Loup Felicioli and Alain Gagnol. Rated PG. 69 minutes. At Landmark Midtown Art Cinema.