Reviewed by GREG KING
The undeniably entertaining and crowd pleasing box office smash Finding Nemo may well have picked up the Oscar for best animated feature this year, but there’s no denying that this quirky, blackly comic French animated feature is far more imaginative, inventive and clever. It’s just that it probably lacks the universal appeal of everyone’s favourite fish!
The film tells the story of Champion, an orphan taken in and cared for by his grandmother Madame Souza, who lives beside the railroad tracks in a small French village. Champion loves cycling, and a ruthless training regime eventually sees him realise his dream of riding in the Tour De France. During the race though he is kidnapped by some mysterious gangsters dressed in black. The formidable Madame Souza and loyal dog Bruno follow the trail of the kidnappers across the ocean to the thriving metropolis of Belleville, a grotesque variation on New York. There she takes on the city’s Mafia, with the aid of the titular triplets, former musical hall stars who have fallen on hard times.
The antithesis of the increasingly bland family friendly fare from Disney, The Triplets Of Belleville is the brainchild of former comic book artist Sylvain Chomet, who spent five years bringing his vision to the screen. Chomet suffuses the film with a unique and surreal visual style that’s unlike anything seen on the screen recently. The Triplets Of Belleville is also shaped by the obviously playful spirit of legendary French film maker Jacques Tati, whose own largely silent films captured the flavour of early cinematic slap stick comic geniuses like Chaplin and Keaton.
Unlike most of the animated features from Hollywood, The Triplets Of Belleville does not rely on a star-studded vocal cast to carry it; rather, the film contains little dialogue. But such is its comic nature that its bizarre and offbeat plot can still be followed by audiences. This is animation for adult audiences rather than children, but it is still a delight nonetheless
Right from the opening scene which features a grainy, monochromatic sequence reminiscent of the heyday of screen musicals of yesteryear, the film is replete with striking visual imagery, wonderful sight gags, filmic references, and an off beat sensibility that will please many.