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With: Garance Clavel, Zinedine Soualem, Olivier Py, Renee Le Calm, Romain Duris, Joel Brisse
Written by: Cédric Klapisch
Directed by: Cédric Klapisch
MPAA Rating: R for a brief strong sex scene and some language
Language: French with English subtitles
Running Time: 91
Date: 04/03/1996

When the Cat's Away (1997)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Hook, Feline and Sinker

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Normally in watching a film from a foreign country, we enjoy seeing what we perceive as exotic and better than what we have here (the grass is always greener...). The new movie When the Cat's Away from France, brings us right into its neighborhood (Bastille) as if it were a second home. The feeling is comfortable and nice. Our main character is Chloe (Garance Clavel), who goes away for a vacation (the vacation is shown in three shots; Chloe walking to the bus stop, Chloe swimming, Chloe walking home from the bus stop) and must find someone to take care of her beloved cat, Gris-Gris. Her gay roommate proposes that she put him in a bag and throw him from a car, but Chloe persists. Asking around her neighborhood, she finds an elderly lady, Madame Renee who volunteers to take care of Gris-Gris. Madame Renee loses Gris-Gris, and the rest of the film chronicles the search for the missing feline.

The movie is very relaxed, and allows Chloe to begin to get on with her life. We see her at work, as a make-up artist, working on gorgeous models. She goes to bars and looks for the right guy. Her roommate has sex with various guys who come and go. Meanwhile, everyone in her Paris neighborhood hears about her cat. They take turns asking around, keeping their eyes open, and just offering their condolences or advice.

Over the course of the movie, we lazily get to know and recognize all of Chloe's neighbors, who are just as weird and fun and loving and nosy as your own neighbors. When the Cat's Away very deftly invites the viewer into this world, until we are relaxed and feel at home prowling its streets. I think I could go to this neighborhood in Paris and find my way around now.

The movie is written and directed by Cedric Klapisch; a Frenchman who attended New York University film school, hoping to follow in the footsteps of Martin Scorsese and Woody Allen. He has a sure hand and a good eye all his own. He gives the viewer a good geographical perspective of the area, and gives us a good idea of who his characters are in very economical scenes. When the Cat's Away is a nice little treasure.

My one complaint with the movie is that I would have like to have seen either more or less of Chloe at work. It takes us out of the neighborhood, and adds nothing to the movie but gratuitous beautiful girls (which I don't mind, necessarily...).

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