Le Chat Du Rabbin (The Rabbi’s Cat)
The Rabbi’s Cat is what I would call a pleasant surprise; I went into this film blind. I had no idea other than it was an animation, of what it was about or the back story. You see this film was originally a 5-part comic series, which was highly popular in France from writer and artist Joann Sfar.
Joann Sfar co-wrote the script with Sandrina Jardel and co-directed with Antoine Delesvaux, based upon different aspects of the comics. It does feel like it has different pieces placed together, but it does some how work. The story here is set in Algeria in the 1920’s, with a Rabbi, his daughter and their cat. The cat after he eats their loud parrot suddenly is able to talk. The first words he speaks are a lie but he shows interest in wanting to learn about Judaism. It doesn’t stop there however, as a surprise guest will lead them on a memorable journey.
Unless you are familiar with the source material, this is a film best explored with as little prior knowledge as possible. It is just delightful to see this all unfold and not knowing what to expect. Our cat is our storyteller; we see the world through his eyes and with what he tells us. The deep seeded story here felt very personal, especially in regards to the moments when the cat places modern science against that of religion and the conversation moves towards how to balance those two.
It is quite smart in that respect, and it never once tries to preach religion or science towards the viewer. At one time or another we have all gone through periods of questioning, and trying to find our way in the world, this makes the cat such a relatable character and one we’re able to be with. The Rabbi is also a great character, another who is trying to find his place in his world, as is his daughter. This is the running theme throughout the film, as you will see with the other characters that come along.
The animation here is beautiful, it is stunning to see the hand drawn work once again, and the different styles that show up throughout are also great. I liked the contrast between them, where we had the main style and the differing styles show up with different narratives. It was smart, and each was just visually stunning and really helped tell the story. It is vibrant with its colours, there is never a dull moment here. It is a feast for the eyes, and honestly after watching this, you’ll have that appreciation back for classic animation.
I do think the film kind of loses its way towards the end, especially after what we have been through, but it can be forgiven. I think Sfar has made a successful leap from page to screen, and perhaps with what comes next it may be more polished. This film is highly enjoyable, it is unpredictable, it has great characters and it is well made. There is a lot to like and respect about it, I definitely recommend checking this out!
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