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.
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
The yellow-jerseyed leader of the Tour de France depicted in the film is a caricature of five-time tour winner Jacques Anquetil. It would appear that the year is 1957, the year of Anquetil's first win and the only year he participated which featured a stage finish in Marseilles. See more »
The odds on the chalkboard when cyclist #2 falls off his bike. See more »
Is that it, then? Is it over, do you think? What have you got to say to Grandma?
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After the credits have rolled we see the Pedalo rent guy waiting on the beach, looking out to sea and checking his wrist watch. See more »
While a lot of the comments here seem to see this as the antithesis of American Disney- or Pixar-style animation, its blood lines are not as far removed from those examples as you might think. Chomet explains in short documentary features on the DVD that the film was meant to look hand drawn, and though the character designs originated as loosely-rendered blue pencil sketches on Chomet's drawing pad, much if not all of what you see in the film itself is indeed computer animation. The look of the film, according to Chomet, is actually heavily influenced by Disney's "new" animation style of the 1960s that was unveiled in the film "101 Dalmatians."
At the same time, it can't be denied that this film is distinctly European in style, and likely to bore people who expect an animated film to be bright, colorful, loud, and not particularly subtle or complex. Its wealth of detail is staggering, and can't be taken in through one cursory viewing. The little quirks of characterization and character design are numerous, but all the easier to discern because it's cinema in the classical sense of being primarily a visual medium, and there's not a lot of yammering for the sake of plot exposition or as a shortcut to characterization. Those are meant to be gained through observation, and what a feast for the eyes it is. This is another example of a film at which simple people with simple tastes lob the tired old warhorse criticism "pretentious." There's nothing wrong or shameful in having simple tastes, bit I wish they wouldn't feel thus obligated to publicly pee all over any work of art more subtle than a Roger Rabbit cartoon.
I think special mention should be made of the soundtrack, which is a rich brew of sound layered on sound, but with a decidedly delicate touch. Note the sound effects in the climactic car chase through the streets of Belleville. Most filmmakers would be temped to goose up the excitement and chaos of the scene with loud, piercing sounds of crashing, screeching tires, gunshots, etc. While these noises are present, they are in fact applied very lightly and delicately, sounding almost like the collision of toy cars and the shooting of toy guns, which lends the scene a surreal, otherworldly quality that the more conventional choice of loud, overbearing sound effects wouldn't yield. It's been remarked here that the combination of minimalist dialog, strange characters, and baroquely complex settings are reminiscent of Jeunet, and I think that's the most apt comparison, particularly his earlier style as in "Delicatessen."
The first scene is of particular interest in that it is in a different style from the rest of the film, designed to look like old black and white animation from the 1930s. One of the conventions of animated shorts in that era was to include bizarre caricatures of celebrities. Now I recognized Django Reinhardt, Josephine Baker, and Fred Astair, but who was the orchestra conductor supposed to be? He has very distinctive features which lead me to believe he represents some specific real person, but nobody comes to mind. Maybe he's someone better known to a French audience? I'd be very interested to know.
Some people seem to think there is a strong anti-American bias to this film. Does it poke fun at North-Americans? Sure it does, but it also makes fun of the French (note the huge noses, receding chins, and tiny little mustaches, along with the Triplets' penchant for regarding whatever slimy thing they can yank out of the swamp as a succulent delicacy). Admittedly this French caricaturing is not quite as barbed as the swipes at American culture. But come on, we're big boys. We can take it! Just gnaw on a few freedom fries and suck it up already. Actually, this film sort of sums up the history of France's attitudes toward American culture over the last 70 years. They adored us in the 1930s, but the honeymoon has been over for a while.
One more detail. To an earlier commentator who found it hilarious that in the song "Belleville Rendezvous" the Triplets sing the phrase "ca-ca," they are in fact singing "can can" ("voodoo, can-can"). The characteristic French pronunciation "cahn-cahn" just makes it sound a lot like "ca-ca."
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