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The Triplets of Belleville

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 04, 2004

This is a wonderfully stylish, inventive film. If you’re unaccustomed to movies lacking a strong narrative that drags the viewer through the film, you may want to skip it (the theatre was packed, but several people walked out before the end).

Part of the film deal with the Tour de France, which writer/director Sylvain Chomet talks about in this BBC interview:

I’ve always liked the movement of cycling. It’s the circular motion of the bicycle, and the shape of the cyclists themselves - especially back in the days when they’d be incredibly spindly with amazingly overdeveloped leg muscles. They’re fascinating characters: very nice, timid and shy people. But they often don’t look like they’re enjoying the race. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a cyclist looking happy, even when they’ve won. I’ve also always thought it was strange that the Tour De France starts and ends at the same point. It’s like they’re suffering all this hardship, but not actually getting anywhere as a result.

For more info on the film, you can watch the trailer, read an interview with Chomet in Animation World Magazine, or read AnimWatch’s interview with the film’s art director, Evgeni Tomov.

Reader comments

MacDaraJan 04, 2004 at 12:21PM

Why was it retitled for the American market? It was ‘Belleville Rendezvous’ over here, which makes more sense seeing as the film isn’t exactly ‘about’ the triplets. And surely ‘rendezvous’ has sufficiently migrated into the English language by now? I mean, it’s not the kind of film that would necessitate such dumbing-down to attract a mainstream audience, being a) an animated arthouse film and b) being French.

Dinah SandersJan 04, 2004 at 8:26PM

I too thought this was a great film. I was surprised first by the lack of subtitling and then delighted that the film didn’t require it at all. The french-speaking person who accompanied me said most of the French is nonsense anyhow. Now I have an urge to watch early Betty Boop cartoons. Oo, and Sally Cruikshank’s freaky stuff.

Did your showing have the Disney/Dali short piece before it? That might have culled the herd in a borderline audience; it was both sentimental and surreal and there was a lot of nervous giggling & shuffling in our theater. Pansies.

JonJan 04, 2004 at 9:05PM

Aw, our showing was told that we weren’t going to see the Disney movie because it was a pre-release. I didn’t release it was the Dali/Disney stuff. I should go back.

One of my favorite movies of the year, easy.

JonJan 04, 2004 at 9:06PM

Er, “realize”. That’s the word I was going for.

DAN UKJan 05, 2004 at 5:47AM

I found this film both sad and funny - thoroughly enjoyable.

Did the American audience appreciate the film’s political satire; implying their country’s exploitation of France?

Marcus CampbellJan 05, 2004 at 9:02AM

MacDara: The original French title was Les Triplettes de Belleville so it seems, to me, that we got the wonky retitle for a change.

MacDaraJan 05, 2004 at 9:37AM

Ah, my bad. Thanks Marcus. But even so ‘Belleville Rendez-vous’ (I missed the hyphen, but I dunno why they bothered with one) is a better title in my opinion.

IkeJan 05, 2004 at 9:44AM

Best movie I’ve seen last year. I’ve seen it on BBC as well, and it struck me they overdubbed the dialogues between Mme. Souza en her son to English, but kept the rest of the dialogues, few as they were (like the Tour de France reporters), in French.

JenJan 05, 2004 at 10:39AM

I don’t always need a traditional narrative (I love Tsai Ming Ling’s What Time is There), but I felt this movie was about 30 minutes too long. It’s charming and the animation is great, but some jokes went on for too long (the sisters eating frogs, for one).

michel du ventouxJan 05, 2004 at 11:09AM

The tour de france, doesn’t start and finish at the same point, the starting point changes every year, except in 2003 it also started in Paris, because it was the “historical” hundredth edition of the race.
Cyclists don’t laugh much or smile much because most long races are extremely painful. Regarding distance and pain, I think the tour de france must reach a summum. Ask Lance Armstrong.

pJan 05, 2004 at 1:47PM

after seeing the preview, the animation in this looks intensely scary. sweet :)

SethJan 05, 2004 at 9:24PM

I saw the trailer a few weeks ago. I thought it was creative and interesting, but I also found it extremely disturbing for reasons I don’t understand. If the trailer is accurate, I don’t think I could sit through the film.

Kip IngramJan 05, 2004 at 11:09PM

Hey, anything that makes positive reference to cycling can’t be all bad. :-) I’ll have to check it out.

samJan 06, 2004 at 9:40AM

I saw it in the cinema… good film and definitely worth watching; not near the best of Japanese animation, but then I’m an anime fan so I *would* think that wouldn’t I. At least it shows that the French are still clinging to their historical expertise in cartoons.

Anyhow it was nicely surreal, funny, and had some great designs - I loved the *tall* tall ships, the stretch (?) 2CVs, and the way the house goes after they build the railway or whatever. It was technically excellent as well - a lot of the 3D CG animation meshed very well (although, ok, the ocean sucked).

I really hate dogs and I still liked the film so that’s a definite plus.

Free LanderJan 07, 2004 at 8:23AM

BTW, do you know that the main artist of the movie is from Russia. I heard he was one of the greatest back home.

This thread is closed to new comments. Thanks to everyone who responded.

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