The Triplets of Belleville

The Triplets of Belleville (2003) movie poster

(2003) dir. Sylvain Chomet
viewed: 09/13/08

I saw this film back four years ago and recalled liking it a great deal.  So a few months ago, when an opportunity arose, I picked up a copy for my kids, hoping it would add to their repetoire.  On an odd day of such opportunity, we watched it together, not long after they had seen it initially.

The movie is awesome.  Unlike any feature film anywhere around it, it celebrates classic animation of the silent era, artists and stylists of that period, including Django Reinhardt, Josephine Baker, and even Fred Astaire. Utterly a mixture, pastiche of characteristics of past, semi-present, the film is both traditional cel animation and computer-driven animation.

The real beauty of the film, beyond its unusual, wonderful narrative, is its presentation and telling in an almost entirely wordless story.  All the characters are caricatured to the highest extents, with over-large probiscuses, swollen musclues, humongous bodies.  It’s an amazing venture in storytelling, rivalling WALL-E (2008) in a wordless, purely visual storytelling.  There is really nothing like it whatsoever.

The story is of a lonely grandmother and her cycle-crazed grandchild who becomes a Tour de France competitor, kidnapped to serve some strange role in America as cyclist for rote exhibition by French wine afficianados or importers.  The American critique is more clearly present in the obese pedestrians of Belleveille.  There are these henchmen who morph efficiently into a single entity when in contact.  And the titular Triplets, a trio of frog-munching, musical old ladies whose days of fame and wonder have dissipated into a degraded past until the grandmother joins their forces in search of her lost grandson.

It’s odd and strange and by no means fully explicated.  It’s not an utter masterpiece, but it does not need to be.  It is a wonderfully strange and exotic story, exotic perhaps more in its style than purely its content.  But still, it’s a strange and wonderful thing.

The kids enjoyed it, which pleasantly surprised me.  I hope that director Sylvain Chomet continues to make films.  It’s good stuff.

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