The Triplets of Belleville (2003) Poster

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What does it all mean?
mainecoon5021 February 2005
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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Unusual and delightful
FilmOtaku4 October 2004
Warning: Spoilers
Rarely am I riveted by animated cinema that isn't good Japanese Anime, but 'The Triplets of Belleville' had my eyes glued to the screen from the beginning. The story is quite simple: A grandmother tries to make her young grandson (who is living with her) happy, and discovers his fascination for bicycles, so she buys him one. Cut to years later, and he is now a contender for the Tour de France, with his grandmother still doting on him, now acting as his trainer. During the race itself he and other riders are kidnapped and taken to Belleville, so the grandmother and their enormously fat dog go looking for him. Without money or shelter, the two are discovered by three old women, former famous vaudevillians – The Triplets of Belleville. They invite her and the dog in to stay and help her attempt to rescue her grandson.

'The Triplets of Belleville' is wonderfully unusual in many ways. Firstly, the character design by director Sylvain Chomet is abstract and garish. Most characters are extremely ugly, and almost every citizen of Belleville other than the primaries are grotesquely obese. (Even the Statue of Liberty in Belleville's harbor is ridiculously fat) The goons who kidnap the grandson are hilarious in their design – they have tall, completely square shoulders and at times morph together. The cyclists have half inch waists, agonized faces and enormous leg muscles. Also, there is almost no dialogue during the 81 minute film. There are a couple of songs, (the music in 'Belleville' is great) but other than some incidental sounds, there is maybe a couple of lines of actual dialogue. This serves as definitive proof that the film was brilliantly told through the action and animation.

To be sure, 'The Triplets of Belleville' is not for everyone. It is probably the antithesis of Disney or Pixar in its abstractness, intelligence and design. Not to say that the others are not intelligent, most aren't, but films like 'Finding Nemo' rely on pop culture to convey their wit, whereas 'The Triplets of Belleville' is brilliantly compelling with a handful of words. A strong 8/10.

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lazy-scribble29 February 2004
From the moment I pressed play on the DVD remote, the whole family was transfixed by this wonderful movie. It was so good, that we immediately watched it again. So what was so good about it? Well, firstly Bruno has to be the best dog (either animated or live) in any movie. The subtle observation of its daily routines are among my favourite scenes. Second, the humour is refreshingly dark and constantly surprising (it's not too far removed from Gary Larson's The Far Side). The scene showing the expansion of Paris to convey the passing of time had us in hysterics. Thirdly, it's just so imaginative. Everything is exaggerated beyond belief. If you like your animation to have a touch of realism, then stay away. In Belleville, things are grotesquely exaggerated. I've noticed a few negative comments about this film, which raises the question of who is going to like it and who isn't. I guess the fairest comment I can make is to say that this probably isn't mainstream stuff. If your favourite movies are summer blockbusters, then maybe this isn't for you. If, on the other hand, you like discovering quiet gems from time to time, stumbling across something a little different on a cable channel, then this could be just what you're looking for.
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Pixar yes, but here's OTHER Animation
lambiepie-25 November 2004
What a wonderful gem of work this is, and I am glad that it was done RECENTLY.

In a time when Pixar is setting the standard for "animation", here comes a film that makes you remember why you liked animation in the first place. This is a wonderful technique film, a study of art film, an abstract film, a joy to watch. The story might be a bit complicated for most to keep up but the beauty of it is - it's complexity. The grandmother was wonderful as well as the dog and the cyclist -- but what blew me away was the overdrawn charatures of the characters.

And there will be no more "frogs" for me, ladies! :)

A deserved USA Oscar nomination. In a Pixar world, bring on more like these to keep the balance too!
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intriguing animated film
Roland E. Zwick20 August 2004
'The Triplets of Belleville' is a strange, largely wordless animated feature by French filmmaker Sylvain Chomet. It tells the story of a sad and lonely young boy whose sweet and doting grandmother buys him a bicycle in the hopes that it will bring a sense of purpose to his life. It does, for as the years pass, the lad grows to become a competitive cyclist, thanks in large part to the tender encouragement and ministrations of this adoring, and, one must say, adorable woman. While he's taking part in the Tour de France, some Mafia henchmen kidnap the boy so they can use him for a bizarre and deadly gambling scheme. The majority of the film recounts the attempts by his intrepid grandmother and his unflaggingly loyal dog to track the youngster down and rescue him. Aiding them in this endeavor are the Triplets of Belleville, a trio of aging nightclub singers with some bizarrely French eating habits whom they encounter on their way.

Because the film employs almost no dialogue or voice-over narration, it is left mainly to the visuals to convey the storyline. For this purpose, Chomet relies almost exclusively on facial expressions and body language to spell out the major plot points. The film's unique look arises from its gross distortion of shape, line and form, particularly in regards to the human figures. The thin characters are spindly and angular almost to grotesqueness, while those who are overweight run to a corpulence of awe-inspiring proportions. And the Mafia figures bring new meaning to the term 'broad-shouldered.' But it isn't just the humans. The thin, needle-like skyscrapers rise to impossible heights, while an ocean liner's hull is stretched vertically to such an extent that we expect the ship to capsize from its preposterously un-seaworthy design at any moment.

The film is filled with moments of great imagination, as when it visualizes the black-and-white dreams of an aging dog, or when it turns the tables and shows us three cartoon characters laughing it up while watching some 'live action' characters on TV indulging in inane slapstick madness.

Like all fine animated films, 'The Triplets of Belleville' creates its own unique world, filled with images and sights we've never quite seen before. By eliminating speech as a means of storytelling, the filmmaker heightens the surrealistic tone of what is being shown on screen.

'The Triplets of Bellville' isn't a great film, but its uniqueness of vision and form makes it one well worth watching.
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the best neo-surrealistic animation I've seen since The Wall- a unique movie-going experience
MisterWhiplash1 January 2004
Within the first five minutes of The Triplets of Belleville I knew I was about to see either one of the worst films of the year, or one of the best- writer/director Sylvain Chomet and art director/designer Evgnei Tomov have created a (animated) world in which they seem to be in love with every frame, every image, every musical note, and at first there is that sense that this is an off-putting style. But soon I realized that what Chomet and Tomov were doing was much like what Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali did with their classic Un Chien Andalou. The story is not incomprehensible because it's simple enough so that a child could follow along, and the strategy thus is to tell it with an artistic, intense, mad-cap, whatever you can think to call it, personalized view on the characters and the environments they get themselves into. That the film is from France adds a charm once the elements get skewed (the animators tackle the Tour de France, big cities, ocean-liners, singers, frogs, and the gangster underworld), and that it doesn't have- and doesn't need- subtitles to tell the story is another remarkable feat.

As the film reached into the last act, I then realized two things- 1) this is one of those films, like Un Chien Andalou and The Wall (the great Gerald Scarfe's influence was one that I guessed, though there's probably more I didn't catch on), that won't appeal to everyone. Those expecting a cute French animated film can expect that, however a movie-goer needs to have an open mind to the material, and that the term "cute" would be taken for granted while being immersed in this film. 2) since the film is made like an original, without much compromise to where the story has to be headed or which characters do and say what, at the least The Triplets of Belleville works superbly to create an overwhelming state of mind for the viewer. Personally, I get exhilarated watching a movie where I don't even WANT to expect where the story is headed. Throughout most of the 80 minutes I felt an un-canny faith in the filmmakers that their oddball, free-wheeling visions wouldn't go up in smoke. And by the end I left wanting more for some reason or another. Like I said, some might be turned sour by the execution of the material, yet for others the fantasy-like nature of The Triplets of Belleville should make for an interesting night-out. For one thing, you won't get those frogs out of your mind very easily. A+
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Original, Impressive and Very Bizarre
Claudio Carvalho14 June 2005
Madame Souza raises her grandson Champion and tries to make him happier with a baby dog, Bruno. However, the boy remains sad, and the grandmother gives a tricycle for him. The boy gets excited with the gift, and trained by Madame Souza along the years, he finally competes the Tour de France. When Champion is kidnapped by two MIBs from the French mafia, Madame Souza and Bruno travel to Belleville to rescue him, with the support of the elder singers, the Belleville Sisters.

What a wonderful surprise "Les Triplettes de Belleville" is! An original, impressive and very bizarre dark story, that recalls the style of Tim Burton, supported by an amazing music score. The scene on the sea, while playing Mozart's Mass in C Minor, is fantastic and maybe my favorite. The city of Belleville, visibly inspired in New York, with a fat Statue of Liberty, is impressive. The intentional exxageration in the proportions of the ships and sky-scrapers is amazing and stylish. The grotesque and ugly characters are very unusual for heroes and even villains, and this movie is basically the opposite of the animations of Pixar and Disney. Madame Souza has a shorter leg; Champion has deformed legs and long nose; Bruno is horribly fat; the MIBs are plane; their boss is very short; the old singers look like witches; in common, all of them are very ugly. I really recommend this movie for viewers that aim to see a fresh idea of animation, with dark comedy and weird adventure. My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): "As Bicicletas de Belleville" ("The Bicycles of Belleville")
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A Very Different Kind Of Animated Film
ccthemovieman-17 March 2006
Here's another film that is quite different from anything you've seen. It animated French film, and this unique artwork is really something to see - astounding in parts. Audibly, it's also unique as there is almost no dialog in here.

The strange story is a simple one: a mother and the family dog go after people who kidnap her son. That doesn't begin to explain the weirdness, however. The son is a great Tour de France cyclist who, along with two other races, is kidnapped and taken to New York City (Belleville). The mother and dog follow and are taken in by three eccentric old singers who eat frogs (I told you it gets weird.). Then, they discover where the son is and the chase is on. The ending, frankly, gets carried away and is the only part of the story that didn't really seem to fit in. It was just too plain stupid and clichéd, dumbing a clever film down..

With almost no dialog, it would be easy to bore the audience but the artwork is so good and the story is told so well with a lot of humor, that it keeps your interest and would be fun to watch a number of times.
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Triumph of the Retro
eightie10 January 2007
If you love the style of the old Chuck Jones cartoons, or the Pink Panther, you'll definitely love this movie. If not, you may love it all the same. The animated characters are entertainingly – and artistically – grotesque, with understated emotions. They say it all with a barely noticeable shift of the eye or by fixing their glasses, or just by staring ahead. And yet understatement is the characters' chief strength, and for once we have an animated film that doesn't insult the viewer's intelligence. Call it retro if you like, but it is very effective.

Machines and houses can be just as grotesque as people in this movie: ships that look like they should rightly sink into the water like a knife, houses arched back subserviently under pressure from elevated railways, and a fat Statue of Liberty (just a hint as to how Americans are treated in this movie – but it is done without any malice). Nothing makes sense when viewed individually, and yet together it meshes into a true masterpiece of form and content.

The storyline is very simple: a French bicycle racer is being kidnapped by the French Mafia to be used for illegal gambling, leaving his grandmother to try and rescue him. Along the way she teams up with the aging Triplets of Belleville, who, no longer at the heights of their power, still have a trick or two up their sleeve.

But if all you're after in a movie is a strong story, you might be disappointed. The accent here is on superb animation and soundtrack, which creates a feast for the eye and ear (speaking of ears, it will be a while before you'd be able to get that tune out of your head). This makes the movie watchable more than once – you will only enjoy it more on subsequent viewings.

Bruno the dog also deserves a special mention: though grotesquely fat, it is probably the most true-to-life and well-developed depiction of a dog in any movie, filmed or animated. No cutesy stuff here, just real "dogginess." His dreams are especially interesting and add a surrealistic dimension to an already part-surrealistic production.

This movie should be a household name. Pity we're not more open to foreign films: most of us keep missing out on masterpieces like this.
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Just Great
Joey Michaels22 August 2004
I found "The Triplets of Belleville" to be one of the most charming movies I've had the pleasure of seeing the last couple of years. This delightful movie follows the adventures of Madame Souza, her son, Champion, and their dog, Bruno.

Madame Souza recognizes that something is missing from Champion's life. His parents are, clearly, gone. All he has left from them is a picture of the pair of them on a bicycle. As she silently pieces together what Champion needs to be happy, she and he discover a new life as participants in the Tour de France - he as a competitor and her as his coach and trainer.

They live a life of quiet, simple joys until he is kidnapped, an event that leads to a trip to Belleville for all three. This fictional city will prove oddly familiar to most viewers. Here, Madame Souza is befriended by the titular characters - I will leave the "book report" style commenting here.

There are so many delights in this picture, but I am going to focus on my favorite character, Bruno the dog. I don't think I have ever seen a movie capture a real dog as well as this one does. We see him from a puppy, learn the event that leads him to hate trains, feel anxious for him when he paws at his bowl while the silly humans finish their own dinners, and fear for him when his canine instincts lead him to places of danger.

Throughout this all, Bruno is gloriously canine. He dreams of the things that are important to him, he sees the world as smells and images. He is awesome. Or, perhaps, she is awesome. Bruno is a male name, but many have suggested he is a she.

Anyhow, the other characters are great fun as well, but my heart belongs to this big fat dog. Even if I hadn't loved the rest of the movie (I did), I would recomend it for Bruno alone.
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