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When the Cat's Away

1 rating: -1.0
A movie directed by Cedric Klapisch

Overworked Parisienne Chloe takes leave of her flat for an overdue vacation, only to discover upon her return that her cat, Gris-Gris, has taken a vacation of his own and can't be found. Her search leads her on a voyage through her shabby, bohemian neighborhood, … see full wiki

Cast: Arapimou
Director: Cédric Klapisch
Release Date: 1996
MPAA Rating: R
1 review about When the Cat's Away

When the Cat's Away: Wake me When its over!...

  • Oct 19, 2001
Pros: Ummm, well, I ummm, that is, there were none really.

Cons: Boring!!!!

The Bottom Line: Boring, did I say boring? Some bright spots, but otherwise not worth the time and effort it would take to rent it!

Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie's plot.

I have stated before that there is a reason I am not a regular viewer of foreign films. In my review of Raise the Red Lantern (http://www.epinions.com/content_41361968772), I stated the following:

“I can count the number of foreign films I have seen in my lifetime on one hand (a dismal and appalling circumstance for one who considers himself worldly and educated I know). My cinematic diet up to this point has been limited to Hollywood’s often-narrow interpretation of the world. I have been a willing participant in the in my mis-education if you will, because it suited me. Also it takes a tremendous amount of energy to follow a film with subtitles; I am always afraid of missing something visually that lends itself to the overall meaning of the film, while I am reading the often incomplete translation at the bottom of the screen.”

Add to that listing the fact that most foreign films I have seem over my lifetime have been exceedingly boring, especially those that come to us by way of Europe. There is always a subtle message in the madness that I don’t seem to get, a message that leaves me scratching my head and saying “huh.” European films tend to concentrate on the condition of the everyday human and his (of her) never ending, exhausting quest to find meaning in a world gone quite mad from the search! And while I find this avenue of artistic endeavor admirable, those of us who live life everyday hardly need reminders of it hardships and many disappointments. I go to the movies above all else to be entertained, not bored, depressed, and made to feel worse on the way out then I entered the darkened hall.

The French film When the Cat’s Away (subtitled for your viewing pleasure), is in keeping with the tradition detailed above. In other words the film is exceedingly boring for 2/3 of it length, and only picks up when our heroin finally finds the courage to set out into the world and experience it without the cloak of depression she seems to wear in order to protect her from the hurt and anguish we all experience as human beings.

Brought to us by freshman director Cedric Klapisch When the Cat’s Away centers around a young French woman Chloe (Garance Clabel). Chloe—a make-up artist who hates her job—lives in Paris with her homosexual roommate and her dearly loved cat, Gris-Gris. Her life we later learn is one filled with loneliness and depression, and her only friends are her cat and her roommate neither of which can offer her the kind of companionship and closeness she longs for: a straight heterosexual male she can lose herself in, and hopefully find love.

The movie begins slowly, with Chloe taking an unexplained trip out of Paris, one which necessitates she find a suitable home for her cat while she is away (why her roommate could not watch the cat was never explained). So she lugs the cat through the neighborhood trying to find someone to take it in, until she finally finds an old woman to watch the cat. Upon Chloe’s return she discovers that her beloved Gris-Gris has been lost, and so begins a 75-minute prolonged cat hunt, that bored me almost to the point of tears.

Because the sub-plots were not given time to develop at the beginning of the film, I gained very little insight into the inner thoughts and feelings of Chloe, so that I didn’t fully understand the premise of the movie until the final 20 minutes or so. I didn’t know that she was without friends, that she was lonely, depressed, her life devoid of meaning and substance. All I saw was endless and fruitless search for a black cat with white spots. Finally, near the end as Chloe reached out and tried to make connections and I caught a glimpse of her tormented lonely soul, did I start to put the pieces together. By then, the film was almost over and I had never really connected with Chloe enough to care about her or her problems. I remained emotionally detached from her, aloof, when instead I should have seen myself through the reflected angst that marked her face for most of the film.

When the Cat’s Away wasn’t all hellishly boring, there were some moments when humor entertained me, and crisis tugged at my emotions, but those moments were unfortunately few and far between. I found the exterior shoots of Paris disturbing and enlightening; I had no idea that Paris, The City of Lights was so dirty. I have visited the city on many occasions, but I guess I never ventured far from the city center into the real Paris. Graffiti was everywhere the camera turned and Chloe’s neighborhood seemed to be in a constant state of construction. Add to that the dreary, battle scared nature of the apartments in which the characters lived and my heart could scarce find a moment to rejoice. I found myself thinking on a number of occasions, I could not even think of living under such conditions! But then again their lives seemed so much more relaxed and communal than ours in the United States; everyone seemed to know everyone else, although human nature didn’t always make those associations worth pursuing, or cultivating.

By the end of the movie (and I do mean the end, as in the last five minutes or so), I was beginning to make a small connection to Chloe, to care what happened to her, I wanted to see her happy, but by then it was too little too late. The director had long lost my attention and my praise. This is one film I would not go see again nor recommend to anyone I knew.


Viewing Format: VHS
Video Occasion: None of the Above
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 13 and Older
Special Effects: Well at least you can't see the strings

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