A CAT IN PARIS ★★★ out of four stars
Rated: PG for mild violence and action, and some thematic material. • Where: Lagoon.
Closer to the hand-drawn illustration style of storybooks than American animated extravaganzas, the French cartoon "A Cat in Paris" should charm young viewers. Exciting adventure awaits little Zoe as her pet cat Dino scampers across the city's rooftops with daring burglar Nico.
When Zoe's curiosity about her pet's nighttime rambles gets the best of her, she encounters a boasting gang leader plotting to steal a remarkable statue. The graphic design and humor are whimsical, the color scheme deep and shadowy, and the perils facing Zoe and her police-inspector mom just shivery enough to give the story some spice. Paris landmarks feature in the action, with a high-altitude climax amid the gargoyles on Notre Dame Cathedral.
Unrated, violence, brief nudity, language and mature themes. In subtitled French, Italian and Arabic. • Where: Lagoon.
Most films imagine that their characters live out their lives in a single dramatic category, as if life were a 24/7 suspense story or laugh riot. The cop movie "Polisse" knows better. The story follows the Paris child protection unit into harrowing cases and trivial beefs, through ridiculous suspect interviews, unexpected romance and abrupt tragedy. The players include officers who are hardboiled or tenderhearted, or both in unexpected layers.
Bluntly edited, with no hand-holding transitional scenes, the film is an intimate portrait of an idealistic, understaffed, sometimes wrongheaded team battling youth prostitution, thievery rings and adult predators from every class of society. Writer/director/star Maïwenn Le Besco's socially conscious story took the Jury Prize at last year's Cannes Film Festival.
THE WOMAN IN THE FIFTH
Rated: R for sexual content, language and violent images. In subtitled French and English • Where: St. Anthony Main.
This which-way-is-up psychological mystery teases with our perceptions of reality, making us detectives as much as spectators. Ethan Hawke stars as Tom, an American novelist and professor visiting Paris to reunite with his 6-year-old daughter. His wife does not want that to happen, and Tom finds himself fleeing the police and adrift in an unfamiliar section of town without a franc to his name.
The enigmatic tale leads him into a sinister job as night guard in a warehouse, and into relationships with fair-haired Polish waitress Anna (Joanna Kulig) and dark, affluent widow Margit (Kristin Scott Thomas). As a fan of the murky puzzlements of David Lynch and Roman Polanski, I enjoyed this sleight-of-hand puzzler. Those who prefer tidy, "Murder, She Wrote" closure are advised to shop elsewhere.