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When The Cat's Away Review

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★★★★

This casual slice of cosmopolitan Parisian life, developed from a short film, walked off with the International Critics' Prize at the Berlin Film Festival earlier this year. And deservedly so. Taking the simple tale of a cat on the loose, it documents along the way a village-sized matrix of characters and local-colour detail and unfolds into the story of a girl looking to find herself a man.

Lonely make-up assistant Chloe (Clavel) lives in a loft in the Bastille, Paris' artistic district, with only her beloved black cat for company. However, while being babysat by a neighbour, the feline gives the old woman the slip. The locals are then forced into mobilising a rescue mission of Neighbourhood Watch proportions in search of the missing moggy. The search party takes in everybody from real-life bescarfed gossipmongers playing themselves to the Gallic equivalent of lads down the caff.

Meanwhile, our doe-eyed ingenue is awakening to the sensuality latent in her immediate environs, and gives herself a makeover, only to discover the hard-learned lesson that donning shorter skirts to get a man just gets her into trouble.

When The Cat's Away is at its best while observing degrees of culture clash, skilfully combining its appealing cast with real-life, non-thespian performers and showing just how easy it is for all walks of life to be united by something as straightforward as a missing pet.

And if at times its fly-on-the-wall earthiness is just too authentic to charm, the uncomplicated storyline and performances (especially from the comely Gavel) make this a leisurely, emotionally acute and engaging arthouse treat.

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