The FAM: The Triplets Of Belleville

Hot, steaming pantomime on order today for the FAM as we present The Triplets of Belleville (Les Triplettes de Belleville), the surreal animated adventure from 2003, written and directed by Sylvain Chomet.

Triplets tells the story of Madame Souza who is raising her son, Champion. Noticing his sadness one day, she purchases for him a dog named Bruno and though this does cheer him up, his joy is short-lived. It is only after she realizes his interest in bicycle racing and gives him a bicycle of his own that Champion finds real happiness. Fast forward and, years later, Champion has become a world-class cyclist, competing in the Tour de France. It is during this race that a mafia boss kidnaps Champion and two other cyclists, bringing them to the town of Belleville in North America and hooking them up to a virtual-reality cycling machine, allowing patrons to gamble on the races. Madame Souza and Bruno follow, of course, attempting to rescue him from the mafia’s nefarious clutches; meeting along the way the titular triplets, a trio of retired cabaret singers.

It’s a strange arc, then. Triplets starts off easily enough, slow and methodical, but upon the kidnapping of Champion things surge into overdrive, getting progressively weirder and the two don’t quite mesh as well as they perhaps should. It’s almost like they stitched together to different films. That said, this observation does little to detract from my enjoyment of the film. Chomet has created a beautifully realized world here with his characters barely uttering a single word. The version above features no English subtitles, an omission you will hardly notice. Every emotion and thought is spoken with subtle, expressive animation. In addition, the movie features an outstanding soundtrack inspired by the jazz of the 20s and 30s (the film even goes so far as to reference both Django Reinhardt and Josephine Baker in the first few minutes.)

In animation at least, I find myself drawn to pantomime. It strikes me as a testament to an animator’s talent, this ability to abandon the spoken word. In that way it’s interesting to note that Pixar, who’s Finding Nemo beat out The Triplets of Belleville for best picture has begun incorporating this aesthetic more in their recent films, most notably Wall-E (perhaps my favorite from them). Chomet’s new film, L’Illusionniste will see a release in the States in December and I find myself just as anxious as when I first saw a trailer for The Triplets of Belleville. I just can’t see his oeuvre losing its charm.

6 Responses to “The FAM: The Triplets Of Belleville”

  1. Rex the Burlesque Guy Says:

    Charm is the magic word here. I LOVED this movie when I first saw it in a theater and it charmed me silly. I loved the dark French humor, especially the portrayal of us fat lumpy Americans. This is a great flick to point out.

  2. jbabb Says:

    This has been one of my favorite films since I had the fortune of catching it in the theater. The movie is truly a testament to creativity. The sound department for the movie was just as creative and resourceful as their on-screen counterparts, utilizing unconventional instruments for a truly stunning soundtrack. Even if you don’t generally like animation, the movie is a must watch.

    I’m truly excited for the stateside release of L’Illusionniste. If it’s even half the film Triplets proved to be, then I’ll be bouncing from theater to theater in a vain attempt to burn every cell of the movie into my memory.

    (I recognize my attempt to praise Triplets reads more like magnetic poetry hastily arranged by a Rhesus monkey than proper sentences; I’m simply not very gifted with words. If, for some reason, you feel that Ross’s well-written review & praise is not enough to move you to watch this, then check out what Roger Ebert or other film critics said about the movie; you’ll find they agree wholeheartedly with Ross.)

  3. Charlotte Says:

    I loved this movie. I saw it in theaters forever ago, but I still remember certain scenes clearly. It’s very pretty.

  4. Hope Says:

    Wowowow, thank you! I would say ‘How have I never seen/heard of this before; it’s amazing,’ except I know the answer to that: I almost never watch movies. Which is a shame, I suppose, since there are gems like this out there. And I’m amazed that this is so recent, in a good way, because it has that wonderful organic feel to the animation that I thought died out with The Aristocats…
    In fact, from an artsy-kid point of view this whole thing just made my week. His eyelashes! I don’t think I’ll forget this one.

  5. drawnbyBarbara Says:

    may I suggest for all those who enjoyed Triplets to check out one of Sylvain’s earlier works the Old Lady and the Pigeon, a short animation full of dark humour and imagination; another visual feast!

  6. alex Says:

    just a little correction, madame souza is Champion’s grandmother, otherwise, awesome! I loved that movie