A Cat in Paris, France's contender for best animated feature at Sunday's Oscars, is a cartoon caper with a film noir edge, the latest in a string of international hits for French animation studios.
The low-budget whodunnit thriller -- whose original title is Une Vie de Chat -- is the fourth French animated feature to compete at the Academy Awards in recent years, following such hits as the Franco-Iranian Persepolis.
Created by longtime associates Alain Gagnol, 44, and Jean-Loup Felicioli, 51, it chronicles the double life of a Parisian cat who spends his days with a little girl and her police officer mother -- and his nights with a burglar.
With vibrant colours and a sleek hand-drawn aesthetic, the film is geared toward children but also taps into darker themes beloved of its creators -- who cut their teeth on the film noir genre, explained producer Jacques-Remy Girerd."We wanted to make a film for young people -- because it remains very hard to get funding for an animated film aimed at adults only," said Girerd, who founded the Folimage studios in southeastern France where the movie was created.
Appealing to a younger public meant reining in the gorier impulses of writer Gagnol, who started out penning comic books and several thrillers, Girerd said.
"At first Alain went with his instincts. From the first sequence there was already a suicide with blood everywhere. We had to work on that..." he joked.
But older audiences are still treated to a raft of film world references -- from Martin Scorsese to Quentin Tarantino, and an escape scene borrowed from the 1955 classic The Night of the Hunter.
The result, according to the Hollywood Reporter, is a delightfully stylised caper that casts a beguiling spell without requiring 3D glasses or a mass of merchandising.