In my last post, I wrote about Sylvain Chomet's animation film, 'L'Illusionniste', and some of my thoughts and perceptions of it (please check that post out here!). Following on from that, I wanted to write a post today featuring another of Chomet's movies, 'The Triplets of Belleville'. This movie actually preceded 'L'Illusionniste', but I watched them in reverse order and I'm quite glad I did because I feel that, while in 'L'Illusionniste' I was very involved in the narrative of the story, in 'The Triplets of Belleville' I was much more drawn in by Chomet's work and personality - I really got to know him and his ideas here.
'The Triplets of Belleville' is another animation. It tells the story of an orphan boy who is raised solely by his grandmother - he seems to know no other social relationship except that with her and his dog. The boy spends his life training for the Tour de France, cycling around Paris and up many of it's tough hills, constantly supported by his grandmother. When, during the competition, he proves himself to be one of the best, he is kidnapped by the 'French Mafia' and taken on a boat to New York, to compete in inhumane underground mafia gambling shows. His grandmother, never ceasing in her support and care of him, follows the boat to New York and fights against all odds, overcomes the toughest challenges, in her rescue mission to get him home.
In my post about 'L'Illusionniste', I mentioned the charming French humour that came to the surface every so often during the movie. I have to say that this was something that struck me immediately when watching 'The Triplets of Belleville', and it absolutely stayed with me throughout the entire movie. The humour in this film is precisely what gives it so much character; it is what makes it so quirky, so wicked, at times so strange and weird. The humour goes beyond the storyline, it pulls you along through the many twists and turns of the film.
Like 'L'Illusionniste', there is basically no dialogue in this movie, but I found it especially amazing here how much the sounds of the film really grabbed me and how important they were in the telling of the story. For example, during the boy's training, the grandmother NEVER STOPS blowing her whistle, showing how she continually eggs him on and supports him to keep going. Perhaps the grating sound of that whistle is also supposed to get to us, the viewers, to make us uncomfortable and show us the harsh reality of the life of a training athlete. Other sounds started to get to me too; footsteps (particularly those of the limping grandmother), the barking and whining of the dog, the car noises, the sounds of metal mixed with images of the bikes, the horse noises that Chomet used for the imprisoned cyclists... As I watched, I started noticing a whole array of sounds that, in a typical movie full of dialogue and background music/noise, I wouldn't usually take note of. I also have to say that the music that Chomet used in this movie was absolutely fantastic - some wonderful jazz and great singing which definitely added to my overall enjoyment of the film.
Another similarity with 'L'Illusionniste' was the incredible amount of detail in the animation. I learned my lesson the first time, so that when I watched this movie, I made sure to sit really close to the screen, and I feel that I picked up much more, although I would still like to watch it another few times! One element of the detail really sticks out in my mind: at one point, in a very run down and shabby house, we catch a glimpse of a toilet, in which there is a piece of poo in the shape of Mickey Mouse! This has to be Chomet showing his personal feelings about his competition as an animator with the superpower that is Disney!
Something that I felt very strongly when watching this movie, was how much of the story was really told from a French perspective - this was an aspect that I appreciated as, again, I could see so much more of Chomet behind the work. The images of the city life in New York and the 'fat Americans' that contrasted with the Parisian scenes, the prosperity in America compared to the humble life in rural France - of course, everything was told in hyperbole but it was very interesting to see Chomet's personality come out in this way.
Another fascinating element in this movie is how Chomet uses animals. There is the dog, who is ultimately spoilt by his family - he eats their food, he sleeps on their bed, he is fat and cries when he doesn't get what he wants. This hugely contrasts with the treatment of the boy, both in his harsh athletic training and as a prisoner, when he is forced to cycle like a machine and, if necessary, to his own death. There is also the striking frog scene when one of the Triplets uses a grenade to catch frogs, then cooks and eats them, except for one who we see struggling away after it has been tortured. Is Chomet commenting about the lives and treatment of animals verses that of humans?
'The Triplets of Belleville' is a film truly unlike any other. I can't really label it in any way, compare it to anything else, it can't be put in a box. It is so weird and so full of character and personality, you really just have to watch it to see what I mean!Follow my blog with Bloglovin