The Case of the Grinning Cat

In the Village Voice, my favorite film critic, J. Hoberman, reviews the latest by one of my favorite film makers–Chris Marker’s The Case of the Grinning Cat.

Medium_m__chat4Approaching 85, cine-essayist Chris Marker remains as lively, engag ed, and provocative as ever—and no less fond of indirection. (His La Jetée is not only a movie about the pathos of time travel, but a rumination on film-watching as well.) Marker’s hour-long video The Case of the Grinning Cat meditates on the state of post–9-11 French politics, taking as its apparent subject the enigmatic M. Chat, who in late 2001 began appearing, as if by magic, on Paris rooftops, walls, and métro stations.

This anonymously produced graffito—a wide-eyed, broadly smiling, boldly cartooned, bright-yellow feline—spread to other cities, and Marker does his part, matting M. Chat into artworks from cave paintings to van Goghs. During the 2002 French election that saw right-wing centrist Jacques Chirac defeat right-wing extremist Jean-Marie Le Pen, M. Chat took to the streets. Cat placards and masks dotted the anti–Le Pen demonstrations and appeared in crowds rallying against Bush’s war.