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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 Louise Keller:
A film to cherish on DVD, Sylvain Chomet's Oscar-nominated, brilliantly innovative 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.

Chomet is our host on the DVD, explaining how music can colour the emotion of a scene and shows us from his sketches how a character suddenly comes alive. Compositor Benoit Charest demonstrates how the musical sound of the vacuum cleaner is created, showing how his fingers can control the entry of air. There is also an optional commentary by Chomet in three of the scenes.

Published November 25, 2004

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(France / Belgium / Canada / UK)

Triplettes de Belleville, Les

VOICES: Voices of Michèle Caucheteux, Jean-Claude Donda, Michel Robin, Monica Viegas

DIRECTOR: Sylvain Chomet

SCRIPT: Sylvain Chomet

RUNNING TIME: 81 minutes


SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio commentary by director Sylvain Chomet for 3 key sequences; behind the scenes feature; music video

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Col TriStar Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: November 24, 2004

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