The Triplets of Belleville review by The Grim Ringler

To judge the French by but two of their animated films then holy cats are they some weird folks. Taking Triplets and the animated film Fantastic Planet, you see a very surreal world that only has a relation to reality in that the earth exists, but it ain’t here.

Triplets is the story of a devoted and tireless grandmother that is raising her silent and sullen grandson. Uncertain what might make him happy the grandmother tries everything she can think of, only happening upon the right thing when she accidentally stumbles upon a scrapbook about the Tour De France she finds beneath his bed. So the grandmother buys her grandson his first tricycle and the love affair has begun for the boy. Flash ahead and the young boy is now a man – with obscenely enormous thighs and calves – training for a run at the Tour. And right there behind him, literally, is grandma, pedaling his trike to keep up and blowing a whistle to keep him going. Though we never hear the boy thank his grandmother – for anything – we do see her absolute devotion to him and her willingness to do anything it takes to make him happy. When the Tour finally comes and the young man is riding in it the grandmother is there again, riding atop a bus with the dog she had bought when the young man was still but a boy, and trying to keep pushing the boy as he tackles the brutal mountain stages. While she is following though a shady – and enormous – gentleman throws a handful of tacks into the road, thus flattening the tires on the bus granny is riding atop. And as she watches the bus’s driver slowly change the tire her grandson and two other bikers are being snatched up and loaded into a van driven by identical looking henchman. Loaded up, the van heads off towards the pier and no one is the wiser. Granny catches on that something is amiss though when she sees the discarded bike of her grandson. Able to find his ball cap as well, the grandmother puts the family dog – a lumbering galoot of a dog that sweetly does whatever granny wishes of him as he dreams of trains time and again – to the case and in no time he has a scent, though it doesn’t help much. The boy is on a giant ship headed out to sea. Resolute in her decision to save her grandson, granny rents a paddleboat – for a half an hour, HA! – and heads off after the ship. It comes to port in the city of Belleville, a bustling metropolis full of grotesquely fat people, skyscrapers that tower far into the sky and cars and trucks that skitter like bugs along the roadways. Uncertain where to head, granny pulls the cap out and the dog catches the scent again but loses it in the confusing city. Unwilling to give up but stumped – and broke – granny makes her way down to the banks of the bay and, by a small fire, begins playing a song she had been fond of as a younger woman that had been performed by a trio of women known as the Triplets of Belleville. Upon hearing the music, played roughly on the spokes of a forgotten bicycle wheel, three tall, lanky women dance from the darkness towards the fire and begin to sing that forgotten song and suddenly granny isn’t so alone.

Not even knowing who the women are until she follows them back to their apartment, where she sees that these loose-limbed women are the triplets! On a diet consisting only of frogs, the foursome makes a strange but contented life together, even performing new songs together at nightclubs, their instruments being several household items that the ladies find new use for. It is at one of the clubs where Bruno the dog catches the scent of his master again and granny finally has a lead on her grandson. It seems some French gangsters who are using him, and the two other cyclists, as their own private three man Tour, which the gangsters bet on, have kidnapped him. Yipes! Things are getting dire for the three men to boot as they are all getting worn down, and this is one race in which losing means you die. So granny, with the help of the triplets and her trusty dog, set out for where the gangsters and their henchmen are keeping the cyclists, hoping they can free the grandson and escape with their lives still intact.

This is such a strangely joyous movie it’s hard not to like it. The plot here seems to be secondary to the idea of a grandmother who is willing to do anything for her grandson, whatever it is. This is one of those movies where you sorta strap yourself in and go with it. The world of the film is, well, weird, to put it mildly. Belleville is so steeped in fat people that the entire city looks as if it’s filled with two legged balloons. Short a spare tire for the bus, granny slaps some toffee onto the wheel and when the dog chomps on it the uses the dog for a tire. The weirdness comes hard and fast but, amazingly, never comes in the way of the sweet, simple story of a granny’s devotion. It’s also nice to see such unique heroes – or in this case heroines – in a film, a granny with a wandering eye and one leg that’s too short, and three washed up, snake-like sisters who are just as devoted to their new friend as she is to her grandson. It seems you have to leave American soil to get some of the stranger heroes out there.

A lot of people will be put off by the films extremely bizarre nature but I would hope that people would give it a chance. No doubt it’s odd, but it’s nice to see something like this, that isn’t Disney-fied and isn’t Anime. It’s its own thing, and it’s happy to be so.

The film sounds wonderful and the music in it is fantastically implemented. Which is very important seeing as this is an almost entirely dialogue-less film. But then, the story is such that all you need are the music and some random sound effects to be engrossed. The image of the print is beautiful and you’ll find yourself marveling at the many different film techniques used here – traditional animation, computer animation, real film footage of the water, and some real film footage of landscapes racing by which are used to keep the cyclists riding by the gangsters. The extras are pretty scant here but you do get to see into the minds of the creators and that’s pretty interesting.

A completely unique and adorably odd film, I hope this movie finds its way into more hearts than just the art-house set. It’s rare that a film these days doesn’t need dialogue or an obvious and clear narrative path to tell a good story. Happily, this is one of the few that plays it fast and loose, and still succeeds.


8 out of 10 Jackasses
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