20 November 2014

Bicyclist Abroad Reviews a Film: The Triplets of Belleville


The Triplets of Belleville is a 2003 animated movie that I remember seeing the trailer for and at the time, had very mixed feelings about. The animation looked frantic and grotesque, and frankly, I was a little terrified of watching it. I think I went to see the third Lord of the Rings installment instead, and forgot all about The Triplets of Belleville.

Over a decade later, my taste in movies has significantly changed. I have an unfortunate preference for B-horror movies, Hallmark movies, and dark comedies. While I don’t always “get” David Lynch, I appreciate his films. That sort of thing. So when I saw that the Triplets of Belleville was on Netflix, I decided to give it a watch.

Now, there is an opening sequence that is sort of a flashback and it sets up the rest of the story. In it is a dancing Josephine Baker wearing only bananas, the aforementioned (fictional) triplets, and Fred Astaire, who is somehow eaten by his own shoes. (I’m sorry if that was a spoiler, it’s not a major plot point.) If you can get through this portion of the film, you can handle the rest of it.

The main part of the story revolves around three cyclists, the French mafia, an old woman who can true a wheel atop a miniature Eifel Tower, and her dog. The triplets only have a part in the third act of the film. It takes place in France and New York, but they somehow bleed together into a place that approximates neither of those. There is no dialogue, but that aspect adds to its appeal in my opinion. It is beautifully illustrated and does a good job of straddling the line between charming and downright creepy. The characters and buildings and vehicles are all disproportioned to an extreme degree, except for the bicycles which were impeccably illustrated.

Since there is no dialogue, much of the comedy is through slapstick or sight gags, but you’re not beaten over the head with it. The parts of the movie I found myself laughing at the most were Bruno the dog’s dream sequences, where we are shown surreal, black-and-white images involving the things he thinks about the most, mostly being the train outside his home and his food bowl. There is so much to be said about this movie, but I will defer to the late Roger Ebert’s review:

There is not even a way I can tell you what the film is "like," because I can't think of another film "like" it.

The trailer is below, but if you have Netflix I would recommend just going ahead and watching it. Action, suspense, old ladies with grenades, bicycles… it’s got something for everyone.


- Bicyclist Abroad

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