'Cat in Paris' is an elegant thriller about an elegant ... cat ★★★ 1/2

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'A Cat in Paris'

'A Cat in Paris' (July 25, 2012)

Old-school animation that does not traffic in photorealistic backgrounds or attempt to place the audience in three dimensions may not be tearing up the multiplexes.

But like the wonderful, Cuban jazz-steeped "Chico & Rita" seen this year at the Gene Siskel Film Center, its fellow animation Oscar nominee, "A Cat in Paris," glories in striking silhouettes, a slinky '50s beat, a bright storybook palette and an entrancing brand of make-believe that grown-ups can believe in. Kids, well, they're idiots; they'll believe anything. (Un jeste.)

Presented both in its original French-language edition, with subtitles, and a dubbed English-language version, this elegant thriller about an elegant cat leading two lives opens Friday at the Siskel after being presented last year as part of the Chicago International Children's Film Festival. It's quite remarkable, and at a tick over an hour in length, stunningly well-packed given the running time.

Young Zoe, a human, lives with her police detective mother and their come-and-go cat, Dino. Early on in this French/Netherlands co-production, directed with serious style by Jean-Loup Felicioli and Alain Gagnol, Dino hops through Zoe's bedroom window on a sunny Paris morning. He has a gift for her: a salamander. The casual plop with which Dino plops down his present is so perfect, so very true to the way a cat would do such a thing, the smile it causes are instantaneous. And I don't even like cats.

Dino's night life is lived on the down-low, as an accomplice to a jewel thief. The movie revels in Paris according to French caper films of another era. Some of the action (and violence) in "A Cat in Paris" borders on the jarring, and the slam-bang finale — set atop Notre Dame Cathedral — favors bombast over wit. But getting there is a lot of fun, in part because the animators take time to make Dino a truly charismatic animal. And because one of many felicities in the film's 62 minutes is the prettiest little traffic jam since Jacques Tati's "Play Time."

mjphillips@tribune.com

'A Cat in Paris' -- 3 stars

MPAA rating: PG (for mild violence and action and some thematic material)

Running time: 1:02

When: July 10-Aug. 9, Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State St.; siskelfilmcenter.org; 312-846-2800.

French-language version, with English subtitles: 7:45 p.m. Fri., Mon.-Wed.; 3:15 p.m. and 6:45 p.m. Sat.; 5 p.m. Sun.; and 6:15 p.m. Thurs.

Dubbed English-language version: 6:15 p.m. Fri., Mon.-Wed.; 5 and 8:15 p.m. Sat.; 3:15 p.m. Sun.; 7:45 p.m. Thurs.

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