When the Cat’s Away (1996)

“Don’t mind the mess.”

Chloe (Garance Clavel) is a young Parisian make-up designer. She shares a flat with her selfish roommate Michel (Olivier Py) in an area that is under renovation. Chloe has a problem–she’s going away for a week’s holiday, and she has no one to take care of her cat, Gris-Gris. Michel refuses to help–even suggesting that Chloe just dump the cat out on the street for a week, so Chloe begins asking strangers for suggestions about her cat’s care. Finally, she’s directed to the flat of a rather disreputable looking old lady, known as Madame Renee. Madame Renee’s qualifications are that she owns a lot of animals (in fact she doesn’t seem quite clear how many live in her flat), and that she doesn’t object to taking care of Gris-Gris for a week. Madame Renee tells Chloe, “men have often let me down, but animals never have.” So Chloe leaves Gris-Gris with Madame Renee and enjoys a week’s holiday.

Upon Chloe’s return, however, she discovers that Madame Renee has managed to lose Gris-Gris. Frantic to recover her cat, Chloe searches high and low, recruiting a large number of eccentric volunteers to assist her in the search.

Ostensibly the film is about one woman’s search for her cat, but this clever French film written and directed by Cedric Klapisch is about a great deal more than that. Chloe is basically friendless, but the disappearance of Gris-Gris creates some surprising connections between individuals. The search for Gris-Gris ends Chloe’s isolation as neighbours and acquaintances assist in the cat’s recovery. When The Cat’s Away is loaded with gentle humour. You won’t laugh out loud, but you will be vastly amused–particularly by the network of cat lovers who are determined to locate Gris-Gris. If you enjoy this film, or if you love French film, I also wholeheartedly recommend Un Air de Famille from the same director.

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