Madame Souza cannot help but notice that her young grandson, Champion, is missing something in his lonely life. She tries to see what would make him happy, but not much seems to work. It isn’t until she finds his hidden interest inside his room that she finds what he wants, to be a cyclist. It’s from this realization that she buys him his first bike and supports him every way she can so Champion can one day race against people across the country. Fast forward several years later, and Champion has become a strong man, with his Grandma helping him train every day for the race he dreamed of, the Tour De France. Even though this race goes well for Champion, some mysterious men are also at the races, and kidnap Champion along with other racers. Madame Souza noticing this, she follows the mysterious men through great lengths, which lead her to the city of Belleville and befriending a former musical entertaining trio. Now Madame Souza and the Triplettes from Belleville will plan to find the reason to the kidnapping of innocent athletes, and to get them out.
A five way international co-production, this was the Directional Feature debut of Comic writer Sylvain Chomet. He first worked in animation as an animator for Richard Purdum studio, and later moving into freelance in 1988. In 1991 he directed the BAFTA award winning short, The Old Lady and the Pigeons, which he finished 1995. Production for Belleville began somewhere between 2001 and 2002, production was focused on the music, timing and design of the environments. There are influences from French Director Jacques Tati and 1920s French Musical culture, and the main characters are based on real life people from Chomet’s life, such as Bruno being a dog he knew when living in Montpelier and the Triplets based on his Grandmother. Unfortunately this film also caused the dissolve of the collaborations between Chomet and Nicolas De Crécy, as the film shows artistic influences from Crécy’s work, which he accused plagiarism against. The film was nominated for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song for “Belleville Rendez-vous” in 2003.
The animation is kind of weird, it opens with this 1930s musical opening that’s really creative and cartoonish, and then later on it mixes between 3D and 2D animation so well that it’s really hard to tell which is which. My only real issue with the animation is in the character design, which is really varied to the point where it gets really bizarre and it makes you answer less about the film’s story. It makes sense in the opening that the character design is bizarre since it’s meant to be cartoony and humorous, but in the rest of the film it’s really odd. The environments are really creative and the amount of detail in the animation is really does amount to a lot. There are a lot of creative scenes, with the best one in particular being Madame Souza following the humongous ship over treacherous waves on a simple pedalo, and I’m not making that up.
The music is very enjoyable, I’m actually glad Belleville Rendevous got nominated for best original song because it’s such a catchy and fun song and it really suits the opening. The scenes involving the Triplets are where the most fun music is. Other tracks range from old timey music hall to classical compositions and some of the typical orchestral scores which aren’t memorable but really suitable to the scenes. The film is mainly silent with little dialogue except when necessary, which is a mixture between English and French. Since dialogue isn’t a major part there isn’t any point to go into great lengths talking about the voice acting. It’s good in quality and the performances are really life-like, the French Radio Broadcaster during the Tour De France does sound like a proper French sports radio broadcaster, I know because I had to listen to French Radio before, so overall nothing to really complain about.
The film has a nice straightforward plot; it’s very easy to follow and there is very little of the plot to question. I think the main exception is the villains, since I don’t get why they’re kidnapping cyclists, and the physics in the last chase scene goes way beyond what the laws of Physics. While the characters are likeable, especially the Triplets and Madame Souza, since they don’t need back stories or development to explain the plot like other films would. I don’t think the film will be suitable for everyone though, particularly the artistic crowd who would appreciate the visual style, even as strange as it can be, although it’s a film that does have a good sense of humour and creativity.
The Triplettes of Belleville, also known as Bellevile Redevous, is available from Sony Pictures and Tartan Films.