Review: The Cat’s No Harm – Une vie de chat (2010)


Directed by: Alain Gagnol, Jean-Loup Felicioli | 63 minutes | animation, family | Actors: Dutch voice cast: Maaike Cafmeyer, Rick de Leeuw, Willeke van Ammelrooy, Warre Borgmans, Koen de Graeve, Pieter Embrechts

An animated crime movie for kids, how on earth are you going to shape that? French filmmakers Alain Gagnol and Jean-Loup Felicioli did it. They have been working together continuously for over twenty years as an artistic tandem. They made a creative pact in which they became one, as it were. This resulted in countless short films, which are difficult to pigeonhole. For example, the graphic style of the men is very different from the animation violence that reaches us from the United States or Japan. Under the umbrella of production house Lunanime, Gagnol and Felicioli worked on their first full-length feature, “From the Cat No Evil” (2010). Well, long. With 65 minutes (and that is still ample), this animation film is still on the short side. That is actually a shame, because you would like to see more of this special animation film.

Central to “The cat’s no harm” is – how could it be otherwise – a cat. Dino divides his days between two houses. During the day he lives with Zoé, only daughter of Jeanne, police commissioner. At night he roams the rooftops of Paris in the company of Nico, an extremely nimble burglar. Jeanne walks on the gums. She must not only arrest the burglar responsible for numerous jewelry thefts, but also ensure the security and surveillance of the Colossus of Nairobi, a huge statue that public enemy number one Victor Costa has set his sights on. This gangster is also responsible for the death of a police officer, Jeanne’s husband and father of Zoé, who has been silent since that dramatic incident and does not speak a word anymore. When Zoé accidentally catches Costa and his gang in the act, events accelerate. In a succession of hellish nocturnal chases, all the characters continuously cross each other’s path until the early hours of the morning, helping or fighting each other, all the way to the top of the roof of Notre Dame.

What is immediately noticeable about “The cat’s no harm” is the striking visual style that is used. Original and colorful and far from the realism that currently predominates in the animation world, especially in the US. With Gagnol and Felicioli nothing seems lifelike. In fact, they seem to have been inspired by abstract artists such as Matisse and Picasso. Here and there a skewed line or a false perspective and you create your own style. They are like small (modern) paintings. The magical city of Paris provides a stunning backdrop, and Gagnol and Felicioli make good use of the picturesque backdrop (with the night rooftops and the towers of Notre Dame being the most eye-catching examples). Visually, this film is very special, but the story is also not common for an animation film that primarily focuses on children. Gagnol was inspired by the classic American crime films by Martin Scorsese, among others, but also references to “White Heat” (1949), “The Night of the Hunter” (1955) and “Reservoir Dogs” (1992). Just take Victor Costa’s gangster gang, an uncontrolled soup gang with bizarre aliases. What is very nice is that a moral à la “crime does not pay” is omitted, leaving room for one’s own interpretation.

“No harm from the cat” is a special animation film, also due to the beautiful music of Serge Besset, who treats the viewer to a delightful jazzy soundtrack that evokes the necessary suspense. Billie Holiday sings “I Wish on the Moon” and the tone is immediately set. At least for adults, because “No harm from the cat” will mainly appeal to them. Gagnol and Felicioli may be targeting a younger audience, but for them this film is too “heavy” (reference to murder, jewelery robbery, frustrated adults). With that, the biggest drawback to “The cat’s no harm” is immediately called, because otherwise this is a small gem, which goes much deeper than the two-dimensional animations that you are presented with. Children really don’t get that deeper layer out. The tip for Gagnol and Felicioli is therefore to make a similar film the next time, but then link it to the right target group. Then it will certainly be all right!

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