We start on a poetic wandering…
We see a grinning yellow cat on the roof.
Then we see another...
There are far too many to count this as a random coincidence.
A mysterious grin floats over the city.
Whether you are lost in Paris or busy running errands, the yellow cat will suddenly appear and smile down on you. Unlike the Cheshire cat, the cat does not talk to you.
Yet, you will ask yourself: A cat? Who is the painter? How did they paint a cat on dangerous roofs and in public spaces? When did the painter draw them?
Some of the cats eventually came down and made their ways to the street levels, giving the same grin at the passengers nearby.
These cats greet tourists and city dwellers from railroad stations to bridges from tree barks to store walls. This grin became a gate to different parts of Paris, opening a new door to a different part of the city.
This Ovid.tv Film THE CASE OF THE GRINNING CAT Takes Us to Streets of Paris in 2001
Some newspapers picked up the “army of cats invading the city.” Yet, we do not have clear answers to endless questions. As they got closer to the people, they also became more vulnerable, the narrator says. One cat appeared on a church wall. Within a month, the cat was erased.
This 2004 film explores Paris in search of answers to these intriguing cats. We walk through metro stops where street performers get standing ovations and where the young and the old, the rich and the destitute, and the natives and the tourists share the same space. THE CASE OF THE GRINNING CAT also narrates the headlines of Paris in the early 2000s: a competitive presidential election in 2002 and subsequent demonstrations on the street against Jean-Marie Le Pen.
Wait a minute!
While we watch a French news show with the narrator, we see the familiar mischievous grin on the corner of the screen. It appeared like the Cheshire cat taunting Alice. The cat not only made its way to the street level. It is now marching with humans. The cat has joined the protestors with the sign “freedom.”
THE CASE OF THE GRINNING CAT Brings Street Art and Politics Together
We follow from one protest to another in the hope to find more cats. One is against the Iraq War and another against racism. “We-all-are immigrant’s children.” “ENOUGH.” The cat follows the public chants, and now it’s everywhere from the streets to magazines.
How did this mysterious grin join the young protestors?
THE CASE OF THE GRINNING CAT comments in a free-association monologue style.
In this writer’s view, THE CASE OF THE GRINNING CAT is newly relevant amid the new wave of protests and social movements. The film can bring another perspective to understanding the story of modern demonstrations and social and political issues. Those who are interested in French society will also appreciate the film. However, for those who do not typically enjoy a free-association monologue style, this film might not be your cup of tea.
Director: Chris Marker
Voice: Gérard Rinaldi
Production: LES FILMS DU JEUDI, Laurence Braunberger in association with ARTE FRANCE, THIERRY GARREL, LUCIANO RIGOLINI
For more information and to view this film visit the OVID.tv page for THE CASE OF THE GRINNING CAT.
Images courtesy of OVID.tv
About the Author:
Yoo Jung Hah is a recent History graduate from the University of Chicago. Originally from South Korea, Yoo Jung has worked in education nonprofits in Chicago and a public advocacy nonprofit organization in Washington D.C. During her free time, she enjoys attending cultural and art events, painting, and cooking.