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France 2003
Directed by
Sylvain Chomet
80 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Sharon Hurst
4 stars

Triplettes De Belleville, Les

Synopsis: Champion is a chubby, lonely little boy who is adopted by his grandmère Mme. Souza. Being a keen bicycle rider, he begins to train for, and pushed by Grandma, is eventually able to enter, the Tour de France. But when mysterious men in black kidnap him, Grandma and her faithful dog Bruno must travel in search of him. Their quest will lead them to New York where they meet the famous but now aged singing group, the Triplettes of Belleville.

So you reckon you don't like animated movies? Think again. This magic film shatters all one's preconceptions of animation and delivers a creative, bizarre, imaginative, moving, uplifting concoction of which perhaps only the French are capable.

The opening moments set the scene. The inspired title song (nominated for an Academy Award) is first performed by the famous Triplettes way back in their glory days, and, with Andrews Sisters style and toe-tapping jazzy flair it just blows you away. The second rendition of it (utilising a bicycle wheel as a novel instrument) is no less impressive.

The style of the drawing is very reminiscent of a children's story book by more way-out illustrators like Leigh Hobbs and exquisitely completely capture a scene or character. The detailed minutiae and stylised gestures are something to revel in - the way Grandma puts on her glasses, the lines above her lip, the crazy way Bruno barks, wags his tail and looks mournful; the way a typical Frenchman rolls his cigarette - one can easily be convinced these things are real. Yet in crazy juxtaposition, there is also something utterly surreal and bizarre about the whole shebang: square-shouldered men in black, the aged triplets with their frog recipes, and the ludicrously overblown muscles that Champion develops.

There are a number of wonderfully satirical scenes, especially one chase scene which hilariously replicates the sort of stuff seen in Hollywood action movies, (not to mention the ubiquitous men in black!) Dialogue is minimal - the look and the feel are everything. The dark underbelly of the plot shadows real life with its corruption and exploitation, but the love and devotion of Grandma and the loyal mutt are curiously uplifting.

While acknowledging this will not be everyone's cup of tea (or plate of frogs!), I declare Les Triplettes de Belleville to be one of the most captivating, extraordinary, crazy cinematic experiences of the year.




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