Film review by: Witney Seibold
The Triplets of Belleville is one of the best films of the year.
Animation gets a bum rap in the film world. Thanks to the profitable, revolutionary, and ultimately hurtful efforts of Hanna-Barbera’s television crew, and to the Gods of Saturday Morning, cartoons (even the old Warner Bros. wartime films, originally intended or adults) have been reduced to simple “kiddie” fare. Animation went limited, writing quality declined, and the market narrowed. While there are still a good number of high-quality animated features that make it to the big screen (one word: Miyazaki), a combination of Disney and the status quo have kept that number too low for the tastes of this ‘toon-lovin’ reviewer. So it’s all the more refreshing to see such a spirited work as Sylvain Chomet’s “The Triplets of Belleville.” It is bright, expressive, intelligent, bizarre, a little melancholy, utterly silly, and mature. It is a bracing splash of originality. And it had me grinning like a fool.
Madame Souza is a little lump of a woman, one leg shorter than the other, thick eyeglasses, who looks after and trains her stick-thin bicyclist son for the Tour de France. They live in a tiny rickety shack together with Bruno, every bit a dog. When her son is kidnapped by huge block-like mob agents of some sort, Souza, with Bruno, goes in pursuit. On the way, they fall in with the titular triplets, a trio of batty, frog-licking biddies who are still performing after decades of faded fame.
But the story is not the important thing. The storytelling is. There is almost no dialogue in this film, and thus little in the way of explanation, and thus little in the way of obnoxious/familiar melodrama. We get a clear and fascinating tale, told with wonky and strangely endearing little caricatures. The opening sequences are animated in that wiggly, rubbery style that would have brought a tear of pride to the eye of Ub Iwerks. The rest of the film, while having a drab palate of mostly browns and golds, is not itself drab. Here’s to hoping the best animated film of the year will win Best Animated Feature at the Oscars.