In his wonderfully bizarre first feature, Sylvain Chomet puts
together one of the most unique and oddly engrossing animated films
in recent memory. Although recently beat out by “Finding
Nemo” at the 76th Annual Academy Awards, “The Triplets
of Belleville” was the best animated film of the year as well
as one of the top films of 2003.

The story revolves around a cheerless young boy named Champion
and his obese dog Bruno who are taken care of by his loving
grandmother, Madame Souza. Her life’s mission seems to be the
search for any conduit of joy for her grandson. Once she discovers
his love of bicycles, cycling becomes their existence.

Endless training, the passage of time and French citizenship
lead to nowhere else but the Tour de France. However, during the
race, Champion is kidnapped by French mobsters. Springing to
action, his decrepit grandmother, Bruno and an aged group of
singing triplets team up in Belleville (a fusion city of Montreal,
Paris and New York) to come to his rescue. And from there, the
story only gets more surreal.

Though the plot is fun and enjoyable, the highlight is the
film’s exaggerated style. There is a dark and odd underlying
sense of humor that often comes through as unexpected laughter as
the sense of subversion and surprise lie at the heart of the
film.

Visually dense, the animation style is unlike any animated film
audiences have previously seen. The animation works on many levels
and is often a send-up of American and French culture —
rampant consumerism and globalization. The images are complex and
demand astute attention, which more than compensates for the fact
that this is a silent film. While this may seem to be anathema to
the modern audience, the film boasts an incredible soundtrack that
guarantees the audience leaves the theater singing and unaware of
the lack of dialogue.

Although the grandmother’s love is the overarching theme
of the film, there is none of the fluffiness and overwrought
sentimentality that defines American animation. There are no cute
characters that can tie-in with a Happy Meal. This is one of those
films that acts like it is not for children and means it.
“Belleville” will scare the hell out of any child.

Chomet’s vision is a different kind of beautiful as well
as a solid sign that animation can still be done with a pencil and
some imagination.

 

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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