The Rabbi's Cat Reviews
Considering that talking animals have been around as long as there have been sound movies, it does seem more than a little strange that it has taken until very recently with "The Rabbi's Cat" to fully explore what that would mean in the real world, especially in this timeless Algeria where religions intersect and co-exist mostly peacefully.(If I had to guess, I would have to say this might be the 30's with the 1925 Citroen playing a part, and after the Russian Revolution but no mention of the Holocaust.) But that's not all as this very entertaining film makes great use of hand drawn animation in a variety of styles to detail its world, aided by a very cool soundtrack.
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Set in Algiers initially, then many places in Africa around 1920.
A cat adopts a rabbi and his daughter. The cat, after eating a talking parrot, gains the ability to speak and read. He helps the rabbi with his professional development test. In doing so he invokes God's name; the rabbi passes, but the cat temporarily loses his ability to speak French.
A large box of books from Russia; the box also contains a body. Only the cat recognizes that the body is still alive. When the cat awakens the Russian, he finds the prince can understand him (in Russian) even though the others cannot understand him in French.
They look for a person in Algiers who speaks both Russian and French. The rabbi finds him and recruits him to translate for the prince.
There are a number of philosophical discussions and talks about the politics of the area in 1920. As a side effect of all this, a quest is started to find black Jews in Africa. Getting there was hilarious. It is also revealed that the prince wants to paint all sorts of subjects throughout Africa.
The rabbi, the prince, the cat, the rabbi's Arab Muslim friend and his talking donkey set out to find this city. There are lots of changes along the way. The cat regains his ability to speak French. The prince finds his wife. Eventually the prince and his new bride find the city. The humour is outstanding.
Art/Animation: 10/10 The style is pen and ink, with minimal shading. This is rather well executed in great detail.
Sound: 10/10 Always good.
Screenplay: 10/10 Brilliant writing for an ensemble of clever characters. The story is humorous and moves right along, from beginning to middle to happy ending. The comedy of manners aspect is deftly handled.
My main concern is that the film is split into uneven chapters, having troubles with the distribution of the leading and secondary roles, and with a plot suddenly becoming a cross-continental journey with no epic or adventurous spirit, but with random events seemingly being included for the purpose of narrow-minded criticism instead. Of course these religions deviated from God's Word are worth the criticism and questioning of their own religious logic, especially because of the harm, violence and lies they execute in today's society, but if one of the purposes was indeed satire or criticism (maybe a combination of both), the film offers no proposal or reflection at all, like a boy that throws a stone at an adult's back and hides his hand before the adult can turn.
Nevertheless, these animation attempts are still strongly encouraged, even by me, so it's better that they keep showing up. The French animation industry was close to dying before the 2000s.