When the Cat's Away
(original title: Chacun Cherche Son Chat)

France - 1996

Movie Review By Blue Velvet

When French director Cedric Klapisch set out to make "When the Cat's Away," he intended it to be a very short film about a young Parisian woman who loses her cat. While shooting his film, Klapisch came across so many fantastic people and ideas that he improvised them into his script. As a result his film grew into a full feature. Alive with street scenes from Paris's ultra-hip Bastille district, Klapisch's "When the Cat's Away" is a fresh yet touching comedy that takes a genuine look at the rocky issues facing many Parisians today.

Garance Clavel is Chloe, a sensitive beautiful young make-up artist who lives in the Bastille district, the Haight-Ashbury of Paris. Bearing the loneliness of single life and working with demanding narcissistic people is tough so Chloe depends on the solace of being with her cat. Bound for an overdue vacation, Chloe begs her roommate and her neighbors to look after her cat but everyone refuses until she meets Madame Renee. Madame Renee, played by sixty-something non-actress Renee Le Calm, keeps six cats in her apartment and obligingly takes in Chloe's. Relieved, Chloe bounds off for vacation. Upon her return, she is horrified to find that while she was away her cat jumped out of Madame Renee's window and was never seen again. Madame Renee vows that she'll help locate the cat and she summons all her friends around the neighborhood and throughout Paris to join in the search.

The network of Parisians in "When the Cat's Away" is reminiscent of those Texans in Richard LinkLater's "Slacker." Each colorful character leads into the next hilarious scene of a new face with a new story. But "When the Cat's Away" takes a true-to-life look at the Bastille neighborhood and at Chloe's inner workings. Klapisch notes the gentrification of Paris and how so many residents are being economically forced to move to the less expensive suburbs. Trendy shops edge out their older competition and ancient buildings are ripped apart for space. Chloe's loneliness and morale are also explored because despite her great beauty, she's painfully alone. By artfully mixing contrasts, Cedric Klapisch's "When the Cat's Away" succeeds at generating a dynamic bittersweet mixture of comedy, awareness, and hope.

© 1997 Blue Velvet Air Date: 07/09/97

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