When her grandson is kidnapped during the Tour de France, Madame Souza and her beloved pooch Bruno team up with the Belleville Sisters--an aged song-and-dance team from the days of Fred Astaire--to rescue him.
Matko is a small time hustler, living by the river Danube with his 17 year old son Zare. After a failed business deal he owes money to the much more successful gangster Dadan. Dadan has a ... See full summary »
Madame Souza, an elderly woman, instills in her grandson Champion (for who she acts as his guardian) a love of cycling. As a young man, he does become a dedicated road racer with his grandmother as his trainer. During a mountainous leg of the Tour de France in which Champion is racing, he goes missing. Evidence points to him being kidnapped. Indeed, he and two of his competitors were kidnapped, the kidnappers who want to use the threesome's unique skills for nefarious purposes. With Champion's overweight and faithful pet dog Bruno at her side, Madame Souza goes looking for Champion. Their trek takes them overseas to the town of Belleville. Without any money, Madame Souza and Bruno are befriended and taken in by three eccentric elderly women, who were once the renowned jazz singing group The Triplets of Belleville. The triplets help Madame Souza and Bruno try to locate and rescue Champion. Written by
Yesterday evening a friend introduced me to this extraordinary piece of animation. After watching it I was left with the feeling that I'd just watched a film which communicated something to me, but I wasn't quite sure what that might be. For hours afterward I thought to myself, "Why did that film appeal to me so?" The story is simple and straightforward. The details are charming and nuanced. The rendering is a true tour-de-force. The one thing that caught my eye was the sheen of the water as Mme. Souza and Bruno are crossing the ocean in pursuit of her grandson. I can hardly believe that was animation. Then I noticed the play of the light on the water reflected against the hulls of the boats at dock in the harbor. My friend pointed out the skill of the graphic designers in maintaining the proper camera angles of the projected live film footage on the screen during the chase sequence.
The music is absolutely captivating. Everything from the opening dance-hall sequence to the extraordinary use of the Kyrie from Mozart's Mass in C Minor during the storm at sea and the entrance into the harbor of Belleville. Notice how the music builds in richness as the camera descends from the few spires at the beginning of the sequence to the dense mass at street level.
Remembering the details and how they relate to each other and the film as a whole keeps you thinking about the significance of the film's contents. For instance, I only now remember that the opening sequence was drawn in the archaic, fluid style of early cartoon animation (Steamboat Willy, Olive Oyl and Popeye) because, of course, it was depicting events which predated the time of the film proper. The style served a purpose, beyond being an end in itself.
For a long time after watching the film I remained puzzled about its appeal to me. I've seen a large number of animated feature films, but none have left me quite as reflective as did this one. I was less concerned with the meaning of the details. It is a cartoon, after all.
I continued to wonder about Madame Souza's expression. About how the creator was able to invest such meaning in those simple dark circles set behind thick lenses and the line of her mouth, which modulated between forthright resolve and a gentle satisfaction. Then it occurred to me. Beyond the larger outline of the story and the details in which it is couched, it tells us of the power of one person's love and concern for another. I suppose we all wish we could receive such unconditional love, and it makes us feel warm to think that such a thing could actually be. Even if only in a cartoon.
The film either will or will not appeal to you, depending on what it is you're looking for in an animated feature film. I watched it without expectations, and was left wondering, "Why does it resonate with me?" And you'll want to see it again.
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