The Triplets of Belleville
Making a silent film in today's film culture requires some smuggling otherwise, audiences might feel they are watching something experimental, or worse, antiquated. And what better hiding place for a silent classic than in an animated movie? With Sylvain Chomet's The Triplets of Belleville (2003), it may have been an easier sell, since (as lackluster grosses for Japanese animation have shown) people don't seem to like reading cartoons. For an indie picture, Belleville was very successful, and it even netted two Oscar nominations (for Best Animated feature and Best Song). But because Chomet has studied his American influences (from Winsor McKay to Looney Tunes) and also is a fan of Jacques Tati (which is noted in the film by a poster for Tati's M. Hulot's Holiday), the picture has its own unique feel. The story starts as a Grandmother and her Grandson watch an old black-and-white short featuring the three singing sensations "The Triplets of Belleville," who play with such luminaries as Django Reinhart, Fred Astaire, and Josephine Baker. Discovering that her Grandson wants a bicycle, Grandmother buys him a tricycle, and we learn that, years later, the Grandson has become one of the best cyclists in the world he's ready to race in Le Tour de France, for which his Grannie has studiously trained him. But while he's competing, the Grandson (along with two other racers) gets kidnapped by gangsters who take him to Belleville on a steam-liner. Using their overweight dog to follow his scent, Grannie follows him on a rented boat and arrives ion the overwhelming metropolis of Belleville; however, she's now penniless. Luckily for her, under a bridge she runs into the Triplets of Belleville and makes friends by jamming with them (the Grandmother's instrument of choice is a bicycle wheel). Through this bonding, the ladies take her home for fresh frog soup, and the Grandmother convinces the Triplets to help her find and rescue her son from the well-armed gangsters. As director Chomet notes, Triplets garnered a PG-13 rating simply because of the sequence with Josephine Baker (famous for her topless banana-dance), so no mistake should be made about the film's kid-friendliness; this a film that should charm people of all ages with a surrealist heart that's more endearing than odd. The movie has a light touch with many sequences, such as the Triplets making an orchestra out of a refrigerator, a newspaper, the aforementioned bicycle wheel, and a vacuum cleaner, or the film's final chase where a baby cart is wheeled into the middle of a road and destroys the car that hits it. A charming piece of animation, it also offers enough genuine warmth to make it a perennial favorite. Columbia TriStar presents The Triplets of Belleville in anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1), and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Extras include the featurette "The Cartoon According to Sylvain Chomet," in which the director walks through his animation process, and three scenes with subtitled audio commentary by Chomet and composer Benoit Charest. Music video, theatrical trailer. Keep-case.