June 1, 2011 (France) / December, 2012 (United States)
Directed by Joann Sfar and Antoine Delesvaux
Written by Joann Sfar and Sandrina Jardel
"The Rabbi's Cat" is quite a catch for the right crowd. Its audacious humor and vibrant animation make for an ay-yay-yay of a good time.
From the opening credits of "The Rabbi's Cat" we are treated to an animation design not often seen or felt these days. The distinct lines are colored in with pride and the result is a gaudy hand drawn Algeria of the 1920s. The exaggerated presence of this world is only second to the eclectic cast: a Russian painter shipped to town, native Africans, a Rabbi, his voluptuous daughter and their (and our titular) cat.
This tom (voiced by François Morel) commences as our narrator but he soon obtains a speaking part in the human's world after swallowing the family parrot, which he lies about. He desires most to be held close by the Rabbi's daughter, but he has a knack for speaking his scientific mind on many principles brought before him. Still, the cat wants to prove himself (Bar Mitzvah and all) to his master to obtain the thrones of his mistress's arms. The story does not remain this straightforward for long. A parade of characters are introduced, a road trip is embarked and the commentary never ceases. Our blunt protagonist does learn the advantage of staying silent ("but not necessarily kind") even if it seems a higher power conveniently took his gift of tongues for a spell.
So much herein went over my head. (Beside's the obvious name of the film the trailer for "Hava Nagila: The Movie" should have braced me for what I was in for.) I know so little of the religion, culture, region - and realized this all the more with each passing reference. This film is based on three volumes of the comic series by Joann Sfar, who wrote and directed the film. While it's chronological in sync, it does take leaps for its adventurous episodes, sometimes we're left behind on the last ledge. I was surprised and refreshed when it suddenly concluded, though not before bringing the cat's thoughts back to where they began. "The Rabbi's Cat" was wonderfully foreign to me. Its reactionary mixing of customs, brave irreverence and vivid artistry more than make it recommendable; but to who if not a film connoisseur and/or Jew?
CONTENT: some bloody violence, some sexual references and sensuality