Monday, March 10, 2008

The Triplets of Belleville

The Triplets of Belleville (2003) is the best animated feature I’ve seen after Miyazaki’s Spirited Away (2001). It is directed by Sylvain Chomet, my favorite French filmmaker who did segment ‘Tour Eiffel’ in Paris, je t'aime (2006).

Chomet must be a huge fan of Jacques Tati since quite a few references to Tati’s film can be found in The Triplets of Belleville. The idea of the cyclist has a direct link to Tati’s Holiday (1949) which tells about a postman’s funny bicycle journey on a holiday at a village. Footage from the film is shown on the triplets’ TV as their enjoyable evening entertainment. A poster of Tati’s Mr. Hulot’s Holiday (1953) also appears on the wall of the triplets’ apartment (see image below).

Like Tati’s films, this animation has little dialogue, while image and expressive sound do it all. Compared to Ratatouille which is a good animation in the Hollywood sense, The Triplets of Belleville presents unique charm through its idiosyncratic style and incredible imagination. The contrast between a peaceful and cozy village and an alienated metropolis is well achieved through the exaggerated building heights and camera angles.

To me, the most charming character is the dog Bruno. His typical behavior just reminds me of Rexie. The black-and-white dream sequences are graphically stunning, full of visual gags and psychological humors.

Finally I’m impressed with the jazzy soundtrack, sometimes delightful and amusing, sometimes dreamy and haunting. The theme song Belleville Rendez-Vous is simply unforgettable. Now I'm waiting for Chomet’s new animation The Illusionist (2009) based on Tati’s unpublished script.

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