When The Cat's Away
For most people, the ubiquitous "Cat Missing" notices posted in their
neighborhoods evoke at best a spark of pathos. For French filmmaker
Cédric Klapisch, they inspired a small masterpiece of charming cinematic
realism. In When the Cat's Away, he regards the overlooked details of
everyday life, the commonplace trials and triumphs of an average life.
Chloé (a pert and appealing Garance Clavel) entrusts her elderly
neighbor Madame Renée (splendid non-actor Renée Le Calm) with her
cat while she's away on vacation from her demeaning job as a make-up artist.
Upon her return (her two weeks at the seashore reduced to a single shot of her
in the water is typical of Klapisch's wit and precision), the cat has
disappeared. Together with Madame Renée, who mobilizes a network of
local, lonely old ladies and assorted misfits, she combs the neighborhood --
the multicultural, soon-to-be-gentrified Bastille district in Paris -- for her
Predictably, in her search Chloé discovers the rich, varied, sometimes
ugly world of her habitat, and she learns that her life is lacking more than a
cat. Although largely improvised, the plot unfolds with startling twists and
zesty serendipity, and the cast of eccentrics -- almost all local residents --
elevate the film whenever it threatens to sink from simplicity to
sentimentality. When the Cat's Away is cinema as serious play. Opens
Friday at the Avon and Jane Pickens.
-- Peter Keough