Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Les Triplettes de Belleville

Les Triplettes de Belleville, or The Triplets of Belleville, is a French animation from 2003. It was first recommended to me by a close friend, and the recommendation was re-enforced several days later by an animation professor. After viewing it, I must say that I was not at all disappointed.

The story follows an elderly woman raising her orphaned grandson. When he was little she bought him a bike, and trained him to become a professional cycler. The makes takes off as he competes in the Tour De France, but is kidnapped along the course. His Grandmother and their dog- Bruno, take off on a journey to rescue him. Along the way they meet a trio of singers (the triplets mentioned in the title), who help them in their rescue attempt. The movie is both touching, and very funny.

The most obvious feature of the movie is the animation. Writer/Director Sylvain Chomet appears to be influenced heavily by early animators such as Windsor McCay, Ub Iwerks, and Emile Cohl (a poster of McCay's "Gertie the Dinosaur" is even displayed on the wall in one scene). As in Triplets, these animators were known for extreme exaggerations in movement and expression. Chomet continues in this style taking the movements out of the realms of physical ability, to heighten the expressiveness of the characters. Even the physical build of each character is greatly stylized- which mafia muscle appearing as square-shouldered bricks, and professional bicyclers as thin with bulging leg muscles. These caricatures create the style for the movie, and also add humor.

The expressive animation is important, because there's not a single line of discernible dialogue spoken through the entire movie. There is background noise, such as on the TV and radio, but it is all in French with no subtitles. This is very difficult to attempt, making a feature length movie with no dialogue, but it is pulled of very well. The animation is so rich and expressive, that you don't miss anything. The characters are so animated that you know exactly what they're thinking at any given moment, even without them uttering a word.

Music also plays an important role The Triplets of the name are performers. They not only sing, but use found objects as percussion in some very catchy numbers. Also featured is an animated Glenn Gould, and caricatures of Django Reinhart, Fred Astaire, and Josephine Baker. Music is an underlying force in the plot, and acts as a unifier between characters.

If you can't tell, I really enjoyed this movie. The animation was superb, and offered a seamless blend between traditional hand-drawn and 3D computer animation. The movie was rather short, topping out at around an hour and fifteen minutes. The last scene, however, still seemed to drag on slightly too long. It closed with a car chase that was not terribly exciting, and rather long. Up until that point I was engrossed through the entire thing, and I can't complain too much about one little scene. I guarantee this is unlike any animated movie you have seen.


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