When the Cat’s Away ( Chacun cherche son chat)

Director: Cedric Klapisch

When make-up artist Chloe (Garance Clavel) decides to take a week’s holiday, the only person she can find to look after her beloved cat Gris-Gris is Mme Renee (Renee Le Calm), an eccentric old biddy who promptly loses the animal during the girl’s absence. At least she offers to look for the moggy; indeed, she helps mobilise a search-party, so that, in addition to Chloe and her gay flat-mate Michel (Olivier Py), the posse includes numerous elderly matrons and Djamel (Zinecline Soualem), a kindly Arab who soon develops a crush on Chloe. She, however, finds herself taking an unexpected shine to a local young drummer…
The third feature from gifted young French writer-director Cedric Klapisch is a beautifully observed comedy vaguely in the Rohmer tradition: light, spontaneous, seemingly inconsequential, but packed with deft, delicate insights into loneliness, love, the comforts of community and the changing nature of Paris. Crucial to the film’s emotional pull is an unsentimental generosity extended to each character, regardless of age, race or sexual persuasion; the naturalistic performances, including those of non-professionals like the marvelous Renee, help no end in this respect, while the affection stretches even to Gris-Gris, filmed, inspirationally, to the strains of Al Green’s So Tired of Being Alone. It’s good, too, to see a film in which a young female protagonist’s first priority is not to find herself with a man; indeed, part of the pleasure of watching the film derives from the way it regularly undermines stereotypes and expectations. Witty, touching and refreshingly nonchalant, it is – apologies for the cliche, but it’s true – one of those movies only the French can do this well.

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