Monday, October 22, 2012
The Rabbi's Cat
LCHDR by azmovies
This film screened in Toronto, presented by the Toronto Jewish Film Festival and The Beguiling.
The film is based on a series of comics by Joann Sfar. Set in Algiers, where Sfar's own family once resided, it has a large cast of distinctive characters. The widowed Rabbi has a daughter with her own circle of friends. A cousin who travels with a lion pays a visit. The rabbi is friends with a Muslim cleric with the same last name. A Russian artist, a White Russian, an African waitress, the rabbi's mentor and his student are other well-developed supporting characters.
While not revealing too much of the plot, several of the characters go on a meandering road trip searching for a utopia that turns out to be a false one. The irony is that the searchers are an ad hoc society closer to utopia than the place they are seeking, in that they are of varying religions, nationalities, races and species and get along, using words and art as their means of communication, not weapons.
The design work in the film is stronger than the animation. There are several backgrounds that are frame-worthy. The characters are rich and a pleasure to spend time with as they discuss life, philosophy and more mundane subjects. However, the film lacks structure and narrative drive, as do Sfar's original comics. The film evokes directors like Renoir and McCarey in its focus on people living and its rejection of melodrama.
I have to say that France is producing some of the more interesting animated features I've seen in the last several years. When I attended a presentation by Gobelins, they mentioned that France releases about ten animated features a year. While I'm sure that some of them are aimed squarely at children, it also includes films like Persepolis, Le Tableau and The Rabbi's Cat, which can be enjoyed by children, but speak to more adult concerns. The last two are being distributed by GKIDS and will be screened in November in Los Angeles in order to be submitted for the Oscars.