Wednesday, 2 August 2006

DVD: The Triplets of Belleville

Tag: Imaginative French romantic animation
I first heard of the Triplets of Belleville when reading a review in The Age. I can still remember this review because the reviewer (who recently stopped reviewing for that newspaper) has given this film a very rare 5 stars, which made me notice the film's existence and also morn me missing out on it when it was taken off cinemas within a couple of weeks. Since then I kept looking out for it in the video rental shops, but it took three years until I actually got to rent it.
And all that exposition is there for me to tell you it was worth the wait, for this French animation film shows the big guns of animation - those big American studios - how to do animation right. They used to be able to do it themselves, you know, with the Looney Tunes and their lot, but now it's all about the money and imagination tends to be left at home barring a few exceptions from Pixar. But then this French film comes along and shows us how the powers of animation can be properly used to tell a story and use everything that animation can use - mainly in the form of things that can't really take place in reality or by severely twisting things that we know from reality.
The story is fairly simple; it's the way in which it is told that makes it so good. A French grandmother living with her grandchild in the outskirts of Paris notices his love to bicycles and the Tour De France in particular. She nurtures him towards his dreams, until he becomes a Tour rider; but then during the race itself he is kidnapped, and she follows him across the seas to America in order to save him from the clutches of the Mafia.
The story takes second place to the twists and the clues thrown throughout the film, leading the viewer towards what the film is trying to tell us: throughout its less than 90 minutes length, the film is a call to arms against the culture of consumption and in favor of the good old values of friendship and love. It is not an accident that the only character that is not twisted is the old cripple grandmother, while everyone around her seems to be sinking. As a result, the fact this is an animated film does not mean that it is a kids' film.
It is, however, an excellent film. The type of film that makes all those watching all those mediocre films in order to find the true diamond in the rough worthwhile.
Best scene: The scene in which the grandmother chases the freight ship holding her kidnapped grandchild while peddling a pedal boat across the seas is pure magic.
Picture quality: For what has to be some type of a cost cutting exercise, this is an NTSC DVD. There is no excuse to selling the inferior NTSC format in PAL Australia. But NTSC is not the only fault of this rather poor quality single layer DVD.
Sound quality: Sound is anything but spectacular - this is a low budget film, there can be no argument about that. With no dialog at all, music takes center stage; luckily, the score is recorded in quite a lively manner, utilizing the surround channels, and the overall result is not bad at all.
Overall: 4.5 stars.


Anthony said...

Loved this too, although the movie had the title Belleville Rendez-Vous when it was shown on the BBC. It's pleasing to see more traditional animation, as we seem to be drowning in a sea of bland CGI movies at the moment.

Moshe Reuveni said...

...especially those CGI ones look and feel like they're all sequels to the same film.
Our DVD, although set for Region 4 (Australia), was obviously mastered for American markets (hence the fact it's in NTSC). This explains the more English name - it looks as if Americans can't handle foreign titles (not that Australians cope well with that either).

Anonymous said...

I remember that, Gidi Osher said it is indeed 5 in his scale, but you missed the point that the scale is out of 10.
I think I saw that movie (my mistake) and stopped after 20 minutes, but that is me.
Just wanted to suggest that you will add the RBZ scale to every review


Anonymous said...

Which you did ..... (I can I deleted my previous comment?)

Moshe Reuveni said...

I won't argue about taste related issues, but I will ask you this: I don't remember The Age saying its star rating system is based on a top score of an X amount of stars. They assume you know that.
Now I don't care if you'll tell me you never read The Age, and I also don't care if there is some or a lot of ambiguity with my scoring. It makes you think about what you've read, which is all that matters.