The Triplets of Belleville (2003)

Written & Directed by Sylvain Chomet


Released by: Columbia-Tristar
Rating: PG-13
Region: 1
Anamorphic: Yes.

My Advice: Animation fans must own.

Madame Souza is raising her grandchild, Champion. However, there's not much that seems to interest least until she discovers his secret love for biking. He buys him a tricycle and that's it--he rides and trains and eventually finds himself in the Tour de France. Alas, he and some other contenders are kidnapped by dark strangers...but to what end? And how far will Madame Souza go to save Champion?

This film is one of the craziest examples of feature length animation I think I've ever seen. It's so positively zany that you keep expecting it to trip and collapse on itself in a spectacular display of silly singularity. Somehow, though, it keeps plugging along, just like the very quiet Champion on his bike. The film has very few spoken words in it, which are all in French, and none of them subtitled...but you don't care. The film is so visually stunning and stylized that it really doesn't need words. The film does what few seem to take the care or time to do: create a world, setup its rules and then live and die by them. That's not to say the entire thing is easy to forecast--it takes some uncharacterisically dark turns, but never out of character for the film as a whole.

It's delightful and it's sad that it takes Sylvain Chomet to prove everyone wrong: cel animation is of course not dead and buried, it's just been borne down under the weight of shitty, shitty scripts. The type of animation in question is always just a tool, as evidenced by the fact that CG is in fact used in this film (as explained in the bonus bits), but it's integrated so well that you really don't catch on that everything isn't hand-drawn. Again, the style is all, and it works.

Bonus features are pretty stacked, considering this is not only an animated film (that isn't Disney or Pixar) and that it's a foreign animated film to boot. You do have what are essentially two behind the scenes looks. In the longer piece, the "Making of," you hear from Chomet and other members of his team about the film: music selection, the blending of CG and cel animation, and other bits. Also, there's a five minute piece where Chomet actually draws a little and talks about design.

There are three scenes presented with audio commentaries that are subtitled. Chomet is on there, as well as Benoît Charest. There is some good information to be had here, like how the Oscar-nominated theme song was originally written for another project, and how one animator wanted Fred Astaire to win his battle at the beginning--Chomet is convinced the animator in question didn't really "get" the film. It's good enough to where you wish it had been feature-length, that's for sure. Lastly, you have trailer action and a truly whacked music video by M (not the Bond character), singing the theme song while mini-versions of himself dance around. Very drug-induced.

The DVD has decent features and the film is enough to carry this release even if the thing was bare bones. Anybody who loves animation will want to snag it immediately, everyone else should rent first and then buy.

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