TRIPLETS OF BELLEVILLE, THE
Champion, a young boy, brought up by his grandmother, Madame Souza, is fascinated by bicycles and she buys him one, trains him – and as he gets old enough, he makes it to the Tour de France. But Champion is kidnapped with two other cyclists, by men in black suits, and Madame Souza sets off in pursuit of her grandson, with the help of her faithful dog Bruno, who is equipped with a powerful sniffer sense. Their adventure takes them across the ocean to Belleville, where they run into the Belville Triplets, three singers whose joie de vivre and cabaret skills come in handy when Madame Souza finds her Champion in the hands of the French Mafia, using him for a betting racket of unspeakable cunning.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Whimsy is alive and well in the movies, thanks to Sylvain Chomet, whose collaboration here with Evgeni Tomov has given the world a movie that excites a critic’s vocabulary of superlatives. Drawing on the traditions and tools of mime, animation and silent film (Chaplin, Keaton, etc) The Triplets of Belleville offers both simple and sophisticated pleasures in abundance.
Using traditional 2D and digital 3D animation techniques seamlessly blended together in a film whose look is unique, it is a milestone in animation retro. There is a sense of history and depth to the film’s tone which comes from Sylvain Chomet’s immersion in and genuine admiration for the great classic animations of cinema. It feeds into a texture and depth that is rounded out by a wordless script of great eloquence.
Bruno the dog is a creation of such tangible caninity he steals his scenes; the physical environment, from Madame Souza’s oddball – and the trains that clatter past its window – to the endless ocean she has to cross (and how she crosses it!) are eye popping; the opening routine of The Belleville Triplets in all their cabaret splendour, not forgetting the toe tapping song, is haunting; and the extraordinary scenes along the roadsides of the Tour de France – these are just a few of the many magical elements that are crammed (but with care) into this running, jumping and fast bicycling of a film.
Review by Louise Keller:
Brilliantly innovative, Sylvain Chomet’s Oscar-nominated animation The Triplets of Belleville is unique in every way. Where else will you find central characters to be include a squat, dictator-like Grandma with a club foot, a fat dog with a penchant for barking at passing trains, a skinny bicycling champion with bulging biceps and a trio of elderly cabaret stars with no teeth? And who would imagine toe-tapping rhythm from scrunching newspaper, empty fridge shelves substituting for double bass pizzicato style, a vacuum cleaner for musical swell and a finely tuned bicycle wheel sounding like vibes?
Deft visuals and a fabulous music score act as storytellers, the film playing a bit like a silent movie, with little dialogue to impact on the plot. This is a stylish and elegant work with highly original ideas, and Chomain’s style is light to the touch. Entertaining by its concept and execution, there’s wry humour interspersed throughout – wait until you see Bruno undecided as to whether to bark at the passing train or at the anxious frog trying to escape from the soup bowl. And when Grandma sets out to chase the mafia, the very notion of her being loosely disguised as a blind person, is ludicrous. There she is – short and squad with sunnies, a cane, led by a hyperactively conspicuous fat dog.
But the relevance of The Triplets of Belleville is not apparent until about 15 minutes have passed. When we first meet Champion, he is a pudgy little boy with a big nose. When Bruno arrives (to entertain the bored young boy), the dog is tiny. As time goes by, Champion goes from pudgy little boy with a big nose to a beanpole of a lad with an even bigger nose, balloon-like thigh and calf muscles. Bruno develops from a tiny puppy to overweight hound with an irresistibly complacent and accepting nature. He is the hero and the character with whom we empathise. We are panting with him in eager anticipation as he waits for Champion to eat the required amount of dinner, so he can slurp up the rest. And when he collapses lovingly on Champion or Grandma (almost suffocating them both), we smile a sigh of relief.
The animation is simple and stylised. Mostly 2D, the images have jumped as if from an illustrated book to the screen. The colours are muted and the attention to detail is extraordinary. Like a good meal with its complex flavours and textures, The Triplets of Belleville delights the tastebuds and stimulates the senses.
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SYLVAIN CHOMET INTERVIEW
TRIPLETS OF BELLEVILLE, THE (PG)
(France / Belgium / Canada / UK)
Triplettes de Belleville, Les
VOICES: Voices of Michèle Caucheteux, Jean-Claude Donda, Michel Robin, Monica Viegas
PRODUCER: Didier Brunner, Colin Rose, Viviane Vanfleteren
DIRECTOR: Sylvain Chomet
SCRIPT: Sylvain Chomet
EDITOR: Dominique Brune, Chantal Colibert Brunner, Dominique Lefever
MUSIC: Benoît Charest
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Evgeni Tomov
RUNNING TIME: 81 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Columbia TriStar
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 13, 2004