The Triplets of Belleville
Review by Paul Preston
Welcome to Today I Watched…, a series of posts documenting my new challenge – watch a movie a day for the rest of my life. Keep coming back to TheMovieGuys.net to find out what I watch each day…and get my take on it.
When I see a movie that’s a new release in theaters or for home viewing, I’ll give it a proper review in the “Reviews”, otherwise, I’ll write about it here.
April 4, 2017 – The Triplets of Belleville
I thought this brilliant animated film was the David to beat the Pixar Goliath at the 2004 Oscars, but it was not to be – Finding Nemo (a masterpiece) won Best Animated Feature. But, man, now that I’ve seen Sylvain Chomet’s outstanding, totally original cartoon adventure, what a tough choice for The Academy to make.
This nearly wordless adventure is about an elderly woman and her grandson. The grandson is kidnapped while riding in the Tour de France (had no idea I was getting back-to-back cycling movies after Breaking Away) and it’s up to grandma and her faithful dog to safely return him home from Belleville. The triplets of the title are three nightclub singers featured in a sort of prologue that are re-introduced late in the film, and join the fight to rescue the kidnapped cyclist from the mafia.
Throughout, this movie revels in surrealism. Characters are exaggerated to specify their feelings or status and the action/adventure is outrageous. But in and out of all the bizarre and crazy moments, the film champions the most basic emotions of caring for your loved one and outsmarting those who wish to do you harm.
Two more things about this movie. When the triplets are introduced in the prologue sequence, they’re performing in a sort of Max Fleischer cabaret that includes a Fred Astaire-type and, warning, a topless black woman with bananas around her waist as a skirt. The men in the audience get all excited, turn into monkeys and rush the stage to eat the bananas. It’s pretty fucked up. It’s also reminiscent of fucked up 1940s animation, a time when, in live-action films, Bing Crosby (in a film with Astaire) got into blackface in Holiday Inn as well.
And lastly, the song the triplets sing, “Belleville Rendez-vous”, is a blast! Going back to those 2004 Oscars, “Into the West” from The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King won Best Original Song, completing a nominations sweep. I dare you to whistle a second of that song, which is a total credits-filler, unrelated to time and place of the story. All the nominated songs were of high quality, but every other choice that year – from Cold Mountain, A Mighty Wind & “Belleville Rendez-vous” – was a more appropriate winner in their importance and relevance to story and character.
Directed by: Sylvain Chomet
Release Date: February 13, 2004
Run Time: 80 Minutes
Distributor: SONY Pictures Classics