Directors’ Showcase / UK premiere

Pardon My French (Un Chat Un Chat)

  • Sophie Fillières /
  • France /
  • 2009 /
  • 105 mins

Chiara Mastroianni, Agathe Bonitzer, Malik Zidi, Matéo Julio Cedròn, Dominique Valadié, Sophie Guillemin

A drily witty comedy, starring Chiara Mastroianni as a woman on the verge of ... something.

To "call a cat a cat" is to talk plainly, frankly, express oneself effectively: the French equivalent of calling a spade a spade (not a shovel, garden tool, or weapon of potential mass destruction). So the original language title of Sophie Fillières' elegant comedy of manners becomes immediately ironic when her protagonist’s catalyst for personal development is her very dysfunctional inability to articulate – a major hindrance when her profession is that of a novelist. The solitary life of an author and the consequences of inspirationdeprivation is not uncommon subject matter in film (think awkward deviance in Kaufman’s Adaptation or escalating psychosis in Kubrick’s The Shining, to name but two male-led examples of the subgenre). Fillières' comedy drama, on the other hand, reinvents the theme of the frustrated writer, whose loss for words becomes increasingly manifest in everyday life, with a refreshing wit that pinpoints and satirises a particularly female fear of miscommunicating and being unheard. Mastroianni gives a deftly comic performance, successfully conveying the very mundane angst of the smart young writer Célimène – or Nathalie, depending on her mood. Célimène suffers from a tedious crisis of confidence, temporarily living with her laconic mother and precocious son while her Parisian apartment remains in what seems to be a permanent state of renovation. Whether spontaneously standing in the kitchen bin, unconsciously baking cakes, or voluntarily turning mute (frustrating even her therapist with that psychological tic), the burden of speech is drily deconstructed by Célimène/Nathalie’s increasing ineptitude – as well as a script that literalises idioms in almost every exchange. An unwelcome intrusion to Célimène's monotonous routine begins when an obsessive but benign adolescent groupie fixates upon her, intent on becoming the author’s next torture heroine. But, in the mould of the best friendships, what starts as an unlikely pairing eventually becomes a necessary creative crutch. With a range of facial expressions from doe-eyed bewilderment to resigned acceptance of the imprecision of language, Mastroianni proves a consummate comedienne – and reminds us that before every new novel there lies a very blank screen…

2009 Archive

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  • #1 Leona Campbell / Friday 19 June, 2009 / 22:57 GMT

    This is a pleasent little movie but on the whole I found it to not be entirely my cup of tea. The comedy is not regular enough, and the movie does feel on the longside at times. The central story is interesting and keeps you viewing but I personally found it to be average, rather than one to rave about. But that is just for me personally. I'd recommend giving it a try especially if you enjoy French cinema
  • #2 Nick Gosling / Friday 19 June, 2009 / 23:24 GMT

    agree with the first post. it's a decent film but really nothing special. i was expecting it to be a bit more sharp but really nothing happened. not in itself a bad thing but in this instance it left me wanting something more from the film.
  • #3 Lee Hearl / Saturday 20 June, 2009 / 18:13 GMT

    After watching this movie I went along to Transformers ... on balance, plenty happened in my movie evening. I thought the lead role (Chiara Mastroianni) was beautifully played. Her relationship with her son and mum was charming, and the way the story unfolded, gradually getting to understand her life and circumstances, was just right... After a pint, I was totally chilled out, and ready to have my senses strained by Michael Bay. Thank-you Natalie / Célimène .. can you come around and bake me a cake, and read me one of your stories? .. Au revoir.
  • #4 Amy Shields / Tuesday 23 June, 2009 / 10:36 GMT

    I want that 1 hour 45 mins of my life back. Only thing that made this even slightly interesting was a cute kitten.
  • #5 Niladri Bose / Wednesday 24 June, 2009 / 11:00 GMT

    My wife tells me the title in french means "a cat a cat" !! why? I think the title speaks for its self , the film is a failed attempt at self absorption.

    A pretensious film is ok with me if its good , a bad + pretentious film is not good!

    The lead actress had a nice face , but which drama school she learned those facial expressions from is very questionable.

    A story would have helped even if it was a bad one.

    The worst film I have seen in ages on the brighter side it provided me with the much needed sleep in between some good films.
  • #6 Caroline Armstrong / Thursday 25 June, 2009 / 12:14 GMT

    A slow French film in which nothing at all happens. But it's got funny moments, you get an insight into the main character's life and emotional instability and the how people need each other in different ways.

    If you've seen a French drama before you'll know not to expect bells and whistles, just a quiet portrayal of life. There was plenty to read into (her perfectly sealed yet unused house, putting herself in the bin, the tables turning with the stalker) which the audience would have noticed if they weren't waiting for big explosions the whole time.

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