Saturday, 2 April 2011

Les Triplettes de Belleville (2003) - Sylvain Chomet

Quirky yet beguilingly beautiful debut feature from Chomet. Packed to the gills with the strangest characters this side of a Miyazaki film, with an equally oddball plot to boot. It's hard to say just what this is about really since the plot is at best wafer thin, but let me give it a go anyway. Three Tour de France cyclists are snatched and shipped off to Belleville by some underworld types. Why? Well that would be telling. The important thing is that one of these cyclists is Champion, and it's his orthopedic shoe wearing grandmother and dog (Bruno) who set off from France to rescue him. On the way they come across a myriad of strange characters (including a literally spineless maitre d) and of course the titular trio.

As I say it's a strange one this, being quite dark and grim in places although in contrast to that it is a beautiful film to watch, although it's probably not best suited to preschool nippers. The animation style is an odd mix, computer aided animation rubbing shoulders with the more traditional style to achieve a look that is very much Chomet's own. Belleville itself is based on New York in much the same way as Gotham City is. The streets heave with overweight people, but Chomet is equally viscous with his fellow countrymen. So lardy arse Americans are contrasted with frog eating Frenchies, the later turning up in one of the films most memorably queasy scenes.

Another thing that really sets Les Triplettes de Belleville apart from your average animated film from the past ten years is it's sublime soundtrack. With the musical highpoint being the trio of crones playing a vacuum cleaner, fridge and newspaper, kind of like an OAP version of Einstürzende Neubauten. Best of all for me though is just the sheer variety of characters that are wedged into this. Doddery old Bruno who barks away at every passing train is easily my favourite, the scenes where we're allowed into his subconscious are the best in the film for me. Nice to see a nod to Tati too, since like his films the dialogue in this is not at all important.

It's films like this that you want to ram down the throats of the dullards that constantly hark on about the death of ye olde fashioned animation. The same people I'd imagine that have told me for the past 15 years that vinyl is dead, and yet… Highly recommended.

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