Distributor:  Icarus Films
Length:  58 minutes
Date:  2006
Genre:  Essayistic
Language:  English; French
Grade level: 8-12, College, Adult
Color/BW:  Color
Closed captioning available
Interactive transcript available
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The Case of the Grinning Cat

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In his newest film, French cinema-essayist Chris Marker reflects on French and international politics, art and culture at the start of the new millennium.

The Case of the Grinning Cat

In his newest film, French documentarian and cinema-essayist Chris Marker reflects on French and international politics, art and culture at the start of the new millennium. In November 2001, the filmmaker became intrigued, as did many other Parisians, by the sudden appearance of alluring portraits of grinning yellow cats on buildings, Metro walls and other public surfaces. Marker's cinematic efforts to document the mysterious materializations of this charming feline throughout Paris are a recurring theme of THE CASE OF THE GRINNING CAT.

This engaging record of Marker's cinematic peregrinations throughout the city, visually energized by his free-association montage style, chronicles strikes, demonstrations, memorials, election campaigns, celebrity scandals, international political incidents, and a seemingly endless variety of political protests (against the Iraq War, against China's occupation of Tibet, against the government's ban on the wearing of Muslim headscarves). The personalized commentary running throughout THE CASE OF THE GRINNING CAT offers the simultaneously learned and witty reflections of the filmmaker, now in his early eighties, on both the contemporary and historical implications of these varied events and personalities.

The mysterious grinning yellow cats soon begin to appear amidst the banners and signs in some of the political demonstrations. Eventually, the creator of the grinning cats is revealed to be an art collective known as Mr. Cat, whose members are shown painting a massive representation of their mascot on the plaza before the Pompidou Center. The filmmaker's own famous cat caricature soon allies with Mr. Cat, as Marker speculates on the political possibilities of such a feline association.

Chris Marker concludes THE CASE OF THE GRINNING CAT with thoughts on the vital importance of such expressions of imagination in our public lives, echoing the May '68 slogan that 'La poésie est dans la rue' ('Poetry is in the street').

'Lively, engaged, and provocative!'-J. Hoberman, The Village Voice

'The film's message, finally, is to leave a little place to the imagination in a world that has become more and more violent. We are far from Chris Marker's militancy of the years 1960-1970, but the social satire is definitely here. And also, and above all, poetry!'-Le Parisien

'Further evidence of Chris Marker's exhilarating wit...an exceptional flight of conviction...the director's wisdom remains robust.'-The Boston Globe

'Rich and resonant, worthy of repeated viewing and ideal for collective responsiveness in seminar and community contexts.'-Leonardo Digital Reviews

'The film-poem of a militant who has never capitulated. His message, always timely, was scrawled on the walls in May '68: 'Beauty is in the streets.' '-Télérama

'Critic's Pick!'-Time Out


Main credits

Marker, Chris (film director)
Marker, Chris (film director of photography)
Marker, Chris (film producer)
Braunberger, Laurence (film producer)
Rinaldi, Gérard (narrator)

Other credits

Music, Michel Krasna; cinematography, Chris Marker.

Distributor credits

A Film by Chris Marker

Docuseek2 subjects

Citizenship, Social Movements and Activism
Urban Studies
Politics and Political Science

Distributor subjects

Cinema Studies
Cultural Studies
French History
Human Rights
Social Movements
US and Canadian Broadcast Rights
Urban Studies
Western Europe


Chats Perches; Documentarian; cinema-essayist; Chris Marker; international politics; Parisians; Paris; yellow cats; graffiti; street art; strikes; demonstrations; memorials; election campaigns; celebrity scandals; Iraq War; China; Tibet; Mr. Cat; Pompidou Center; film; video; dvd; documentary; "The Case of the Grinning Cat"; Icarus Films;

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