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Movie Review – The Triplets of Belleville (Les Triplettes de Belleville - 2003 - France)
There are many ways in which creative artists can use the medium of film to speak to their audience: it is an extraordinarily flexible art form. But—because it can achieve such a startling degree of realism, so that we feel we really are where the film takes us—its full creative potential is sometimes denied. Early filmmakers immediately saw that potential, and the German Expressionist movement was merely the first of many waves of artists exploring the upper reaches of film as a tool for art.
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In the present, most of that creative energy has become focused on animation, and understandably so. Animated films can take us anywhere, in this world or in some other, and can be populated with the most diverse cast imaginable, and they can do all that at a fraction of the cost of trying to do so with real sets and a flesh and blood cast. Classic animation, whether hand-drawn or utilizing stop motion technique and a three dimensional palettes—as does claymation—is also still cheaper to produce than computer-generated imagery and arguably can remain more intensely the artistic work of one person.
The Triplets of Belleville is a hugely successful example of a truly creative animated film experience. It uses the oldest form of animation—hand-drawn cells—and reaches far past the constraints of realist style into the realm of expressionism. The story is not complicated—a poor but plucky grandmother adopts her orphaned grandson, whose only joy comes from fantasizing about becoming a cycling star. She trains him herself, utilizing household objects in lieu of expensive sports gadgets, and he becomes so good that he is abducted by the mob to become one of their stable of racing "things"—treated exactly the way race horses and dogs are treated.
The grandmother is undaunted and, with the aid of the most unlikely allies—her elderly, overweight dog, Bruno, and then the equally elderly and wonderfully eccentric Triplets—sets out to rescue him. The film is also nearly silent; its creator, Sylvain Chomet, chooses to tell the tale almost entirely in visuals. One underlying theme is the value of persistence, and the resourcefulness of the disenfranchised. Both are topics rarely touched upon in cinematic work, and both are worthy of our attention. Because the visuals are so breathtaking, the work also speaks eloquently to the resourcefulness of art, and artists, even in the face of crushing obstacles, such as the financial restraints of modern film making and marketing. How wonderful that this visual poem exists! I cannot say enough about how refreshing this film is, or how much I adore it.
Very highly recommended.
Copyright © Roberta Lee 2012. All rights reserved.
(I am an artist and the author of the Suburban Sprawl series of novels as well as two nonfiction books. Find out more about my work at RobertaLeeArt.com.)
Genre: Drama, Animation, Art House, Comedy
Running Time: 1 hr. 21 min.
Directed By: Sylvain Chomet
Written By: Sylvain Chomet
In Theaters: Nov 26, 2003 Wide
On DVD: May 4, 2004
Box Office: $6.8M
Distributed by: Sony Pictures Classic
Béatrice Bonifassi - Triplets (singing voice)
Lina Boudreau - Triplets (voice)
Michèle Caucheteux - (voice)
Jean-Claude Donda - (voice)