1 January 2004 | Quinoa1984
the best neo-surrealistic animation I've seen since The Wall- a unique movie-going experience
Within the first five minutes of The Triplets of Belleville I knew I was about to see either one of the worst films of the year, or one of the best- writer/director Sylvain Chomet and art director/designer Evgnei Tomov have created a (animated) world in which they seem to be in love with every frame, every image, every musical note, and at first there is that sense that this is an off-putting style. But soon I realized that what Chomet and Tomov were doing was much like what Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali did with their classic Un Chien Andalou. The story is not incomprehensible because it's simple enough so that a child could follow along, and the strategy thus is to tell it with an artistic, intense, mad-cap, whatever you can think to call it, personalized view on the characters and the environments they get themselves into. That the film is from France adds a charm once the elements get skewed (the animators tackle the Tour de France, big cities, ocean-liners, singers, frogs, and the gangster underworld), and that it doesn't have- and doesn't need- subtitles to tell the story is another remarkable feat.
As the film reached into the last act, I then realized two things- 1) this is one of those films, like Un Chien Andalou and The Wall (the great Gerald Scarfe's influence was one that I guessed, though there's probably more I didn't catch on), that won't appeal to everyone. Those expecting a cute French animated film can expect that, however a movie-goer needs to have an open mind to the material, and that the term "cute" would be taken for granted while being immersed in this film. 2) since the film is made like an original, without much compromise to where the story has to be headed or which characters do and say what, at the least The Triplets of Belleville works superbly to create an overwhelming state of mind for the viewer. Personally, I get exhilarated watching a movie where I don't even WANT to expect where the story is headed. Throughout most of the 80 minutes I felt an un-canny faith in the filmmakers that their oddball, free-wheeling visions wouldn't go up in smoke. And by the end I left wanting more for some reason or another. Like I said, some might be turned sour by the execution of the material, yet for others the fantasy-like nature of The Triplets of Belleville should make for an interesting night-out. For one thing, you won't get those frogs out of your mind very easily. A+