Welcome to Animation Globe, where Headstuff’s animation expert Joseph Learoyd analyses films of the form from around the world. This entry is on 2003 French movie The Triplets of Belleville.
Created by French comic writer and animator Sylvain Chomet, The Triplets of Belleville is a gem that isn’t afraid to delve into the grittier side of animation, gorgeously conveying its author’s style in every scene.
I saw this film many years ago. I remember being blown away by how different it felt to the American and Asian cartoons I had seen at the time. Also known as Belleville Rendez-vous, it tells the tale of elderly woman, Souza, and her dog. They wage a war against the French mob in order to save Souza’s kidnapped cyclist son, Champion, before any harm can come to him.
The start of the picture establishes the tone to follow, a series of cartoonish visual jokes that are both thoughtful and pantomime-esque. That said, this opening sequence probably has the most speech, (albeit, in song) of the whole movie, the rest choosing a more minimal approach to dialogue – relying on musical and visual cues to further the plot. While those looking for something more conventional may find this off-putting, the body language and actions of the characters expressed through images rather than talking is enough to understand their motivation.
Also who needs dialogue when a film is this beautifully animated? One could sit and observe the complex, highly detailed backgrounds all day, and still be in awe. Although combining 3D and 2D elements, Belleville never feels like it struggles to balance the two. When it needs to use one, it does and manages to blend it seamlessly in transition with the other.
The second part of the film provides a huge contrast to that of the first, feeling fresher and faster. Many may, because of the slower pace of the front-half, switch off. Please don’t. This is an intentional juxtaposition. Early on, through gorgeously rendered shots, we see the day-to-day lives of our protagonists, Thus, the more chaotic style of the latter half, signifies their everyday routine begin thrown into chaos.
Through this, we see Madame Souza undergo major changes. At first, she seems to only have a professional relationship with her Tour de France cycling youth (she being his trainer). However, the kidnapping reminds her how much she cares for her boy, leading to her performing a valiant rescue attempt to save Champion. Indeed, the theme of the film is family, and looking out for them when they need you.
The humour here is wonderfully crafted, weaving its way through the stunning visuals and score. Although not for children, this film is worth checking out if you want to see something a little out of your comfort zone. It may be different, but this Academy Award-nominated movie has stood out as one of the most powerful animated films to come out of France, touching our hearts along the way.