UMS jazz series presents ‘Triplets of Belleville’

Tuesday, February 16, 2016 - 6:37pm

On Friday, the University of Michigan's Musical Society will present “The Triplets of Belleville,” an event that combines cinema and live music into one unique experience.

“The Triplets of Belleville” is an animated film, written and directed by Sylvain Chomet. The film was released in 2003. It tells the story of an old woman, Madame Souza, who goes on a journey to rescue her grandson, a Tour de France cyclist named Champion, from the French mafia.

Mark Johnson, UMS senior programming coordinator, was a part of the team that brought this production to the University.

“It’s a film that I saw in its original release at the Michigan Theater and I fell in love with,” Johnson said. “It’s so joyous and remarkable and artistic. It’s a universally admired piece of art.”

Friday’s event is a part of UMS’s Jazz Series. Audiences will get to see the film’s unique animation, accompanied by “Le Terrible Orchestre de Belleville,” an on-stage eight-piece orchestra performing the film’s jazz music and sound effects live. The band is led by Benoit Charest, the film’s composer.

“It’s really an incredibly special opportunity to host the composer of the film score, Benoit Charest, in Ann Arbor,” Johnson said. “It’s exciting, there’s a certain level of improvisation in the music they’re making.  It’s performed in the style of ‘Le Jazz Hot,’ which is a style that was popularized in 1920s Paris. It’s period music.”

Charest was nominated for a 2003 Academy Award for Best Original Song for “Belleville Rendezvous,” a song from the film.  In a press release, he said his music has been influenced by jazz, French singers of the ’50s and’60s and Frank Zappa.

“There’s two really incredible features in this presentation,” said Mallory Schirr, UMS marketing and media relations coordinator. “The animation is just beautiful, it’s a heartwarming story, it’s an incredible film. But I think one of the most unique experiences that you could have is being able to watch the film with the live score. There’s going to be nothing like having a live jazz performance right in front of you as you’re watching the film.”

Schirr also said she thinks this unique performance has many facets that will appeal to a variety of audience members. 

“Even if you’re not into music, if you’re into movies, if you’re into film or animation, I think it’s something that will resonate really well with people across the entire University,” she said.

Johnson agreed that the combination of the film and the live music make this event a unique experience. 

“All of the musicians will be onstage, performing, visible to the audience, directly underneath the screen,” he said. “It’s the live film score from the creator and composer himself, with hand-picked musicians to play the parts.”