Chats perchés (The Case of the Grinning Cat)

Chats perchés (The Case of the Grinning Cat)

Wednesday, May 10, 2017 - 9:00pm
Trailer(s)
Screening Sponsor(s)
Chris Marker | 
France |
 2004 | 
58 minutes

THIS FILM IS PART OF THE FRENCH FRENCH PROGRAM. 

CINEMATHEQUE MEMBERS WILL RECEIVE A DOXA MEMBERSHIP FOR ALL 7 FOIS CHRIS MARKER SCREENINGS. 

A more fitting film for our electoral moment is hard to imagine than Chris Marker’s Chats perchés (The Case of the Grinning Cat). The film has the serendipitous timing that is the hallmark of great art: it is always relevant, and au courant — sometimes painfully so.

Marker’s last film, made at the very beginning of the new Millennium, takes as its leaping off point, the appearance of mysterious yellow felines gracing the walls, the streets, even the Metro stations of Paris. Possessed of a manic grin that is equal parts Lewis Carroll’s Cheshire and Miyazaki’s Totoro, it is both weirdly thrilling, and truth be told, a bit unsettling. “Someone was risking his neck at night, just to have a smile floating over the city,” muses the filmmaker. But what does this kitty want, what is he trying to tell us? Camera in hand, Marker takes to the streets, filming protests of every stripe, searching for a sign, or a clearer indication of what is going on. As the people march and shout, carrying on about elections, wars, political scandals, and the Chinese occupation of Tibet, the cat floats over the proceedings, a silent witness to the ongoing calamitous chaos. Saul Bellow’s quote that described humans as “the not-yet-stabilized animal” seems particularly apropos here. If you need a gentle reminder that the past is never really over, it’s not even past, the French election that featured the rise of the far-right candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen seems to have come round again. We need help from cats, and occasionally they are magnanimous enough to grant some measure of their coolness. In the end, that is precisely what happens. “La poésie est dans la rue” (“Poetry is in the street”), and so are the cats! -DW