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Chacun cherche son …

22/06/2009

black catLast year, while chatting about French cinema a friend reminded me of Cedric Klapisch’s 1996 film Chacun cherche son chat. I was very glad of the reminder, it’s a gem of a film: quiet, minutely-observed and naturalistically played (Klapisch involved ‘ordinary’ residents in the quartier). The charm – so-often a cloying element – is genuine, even scruffy in its reassuring reality.
The plot? A young woman, Chloe, goes away on holiday leaving her cat in the hands of an elderly neighbour, Madame Renee. Inevitably, the cat disappears … Both women tour the neighbourhood in search of the errant pet, encountering many others some of whom are also seeking something or someone. New friends are made as well as discoveries.
A film, perhaps, for animal lovers – among Madame Renee’s typical observations is her battle-cry of “Men have let me down, but animals never. Never!”
If you haven’t seen the film, do. Not least, it contains an early outing by that magnetic film actor, Romain Duris (star of De battre mon coeur s’est arrêté).
So why was I thinking about the film?
A nice, middle-aged lesbian in my own quartier lost her little dog just over a month ago (originally mentioned here). I’d been commiserating with her, and occasionally checking for news – not outright; but rather more subtly (all you had to do was look at her face, it was eloquent enough). Many animals are abandoned by their owners, unable to pay for them or finding them unexpectedly burdensome for various reasons. Animal rescue charities are now fighting a losing battle to cope with this increasing problem. Also cats and small dogs disappear from the streets of this city every week never to be found due to theft. Small pets are costly, consequently there’s a market for them. Apparently most of them are taken across the border into Italy, where they are a prized commodity.
Yesterday, sloping up her street, I noticed the lady in question sitting outside the Moroccan restaurant opposite her premises (she’s a seamstress). Beside her was her little dog. I could hardly believe my eyes, finding myself doing a truly hammy double-take before hastening to greet both of them.
Xena – the dog – had apparently been snatched away by another neighbour, the matriarch from the family-run Chinese restaurant on the corner of this street and the rue de France. The dog had been kept indoors for nearly five weeks; but had clearly been fed and watered at least adequately.
Why? The dog hardly presents as a nuisance, being well-trained and behaved. The little creature is always with her owner (who scrupulously clears up after it, unlike the majority of dog-owners in Nice). So why la sequestration? Was there bad-blood between the two women? Why on earth, in any case, would somebody want to do that?
My acquaintance shrugged as if to say ‘why not?’
“Elle est mechante, cella-la” she commented, as if it explained everything.
Perhaps it does.
All the same intriguing, no? I can see this one forming the basis for a plot or at least providing a sufficiently strong McGuffin for a good mystery. It certainly set my curiosity alight, as well as introducing me to some of my fellow residents. And ‘why?’ still lingers. I shall have to see if I can find out more …

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