Triplets Of Belleville
directed by Sylvain Chomet
featuring the voices of Michèle Caucheteux, Jean-Claude Donda, Michel Robin, Monica Viegas
Sony Pictures Classics
Never in cinematic history has the weird French compulsion for bicycle racing taken on such a twisted, contorted and diabolical tone as it does in Sylvain Chomet’s heralded first film, The Triplets Of Belleville. Chomet’s last project was the Academy Award nominated short, Our Lady & The Pigeons, an animated endeavor that showcased Chomet’s resume as a skilled animator, endearing storyteller and a visual magician. The Triplets Of Belleville is a pleasant little film. Clocking in at just under 90 minutes, it tells the warm story of Champion, a lonely young boy whose destiny is to race in the Tour De France. His adopted Grandmother, Madame Souza, does her best to nurture him via both encouragement and rigid discipline. Everything goes awry when the French Mafia kidnaps Champion during the Tour De France. They steal him away to a slavish life of smoke filled clubs where gamblers wager big bucks on stationary cyclists who ride towards 3D backdrops of the Tour De France.
The resourceful Souza vows to rescue Champion from a life of agony and servitude. Abetted by her faithful hound, Bruno, she crosses the Ocean and ends up in the small city of Belleville where she receives unexpected help from three retired ’30s chanteuses, “The Triplets Of Belleville.” The Triplets are famous for making cabaret style songs with found items, like newspapers, refrigerators and vacuum cleaners. Eccentric, elderly and energetic are the best adjectives to describe the Triplets Of Belleville. Their warmth, compassion, ingenuousness and improvisational assistance help Sousa rescue Champion from French gangsters.
Chomet tells a charming, child-like story without relying on a great deal of spoken dialogue. Instead he puts his story in the hands of capable animators who have built a story that mixes simplicity and nostalgia underpinned with outside sounds and a winding musical score. The breathtaking, grainy, unpolished recreation of Depression-era Tex Avery-like animation clues us all in that this is going to be a remarkable film experience. For example, The Triplets Of Belleville’s opening musical number, complete with cameos by Josephine Baker and Fred Astaire, tips its hat to the innocence of Golden Age cartoons and the slapstick humor of silent film.
Sylvain Chomet’s experience as a comic strip writer accounts for the swiftly paced narrative and intricate animation prominent throughout “The Triplets Of Belleville.” This experience expands Chomet’s canvas, enabling him to tell a broader story in a shorter length of time without disengaging the viewer. He manages to always keep us moving and wondering what is going to happen next. Stylistically, his use of dimension, shading and perspective is so precise that is almost mathematical. Chomet’s ingenuity and infectious curiosity propel the film’s energy. What begins with Champion’s boundless energy, moves on to Souza’s Marine-like training. He adds more flavor with Souza’s clubfoot and Bruno’s over the top barking at trains. He then sashays the plot into an almost Clouseau-eque climax filled with furious pedaling and bumbling French Mafiosos. Sylvain Chomet is going to be a player to watch in the animated film industry. He has made an auspicious debut of extraordinary vision and inventiveness, rife with grace, poise, style, flavor and tenderness.
The Triplets of Belleville: http://www.sonyclassics.com/triplets/