The Case of the Grinning Cat

Chats perchés

dir. Chris Marker

TIFF Cinematheque - Retrospective

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Lovely, witty and allusive, Chris Marker's last major work before his death traces the renewal of political protest culture in the wake of the invasion of Iraq.

"Five stars! As dazzling and multi-faceted (and hard-edged) as a diamond" (Adam Nayman, Eye Weekly). Marker's oeuvre is a bestiary, full of cats and owls especially, and his "feline fixation" finds witty, political expression in the lovely, allusive The Case of the Grinning Cat, his last major work before his death. After the September 11 attacks, graffiti of a big, yellow, grinning cat began to proliferate in Paris and other French cities, appearing on walls, trees, banners, on television and in demonstrations. What did this frisky feline — who soon became known as "Monsieur Chat" — signify with its big eyes and sly grin? As in Le Joli Mai, his classic study of sixties Paris, Marker took his camera into the streets to probe the phenomenon of the "perched cats," and — no surprise for this most excursive of essayists — fashioned a dense, sometimes dizzying commentary on the rise of Le Pen's National Front, George W. Bush and the run-up to the Iraq War, antipathy towards Israel, contemporary French politics and the renewal of political protest culture, all of it accoutered with acerbic Marker asides and musings. "I can't think of a better portrait of contemporary Paris or the zeitgeist of 2001-'04 ... no one can film people in the street better than Marker, or combine images with more grace and finesse" (Jonathan Rosebaum, Chicago Reader).

Thanks to Icarus Films.