The Triplets of Belleville
2004, PG-13, 82 min. Directed by Sylvain Chomet.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Feb. 13, 2004
Move over, Disney and Pixar. Sylvain Chomet’s new animated feature (which has been nominated for Oscars in the categories of Best Animated Feature and Best Song) is the kind of work that could never be authored by a committee or a team of animators. The sights and sounds of The Triplets of Belleville are the singular product of the strange and wonderful imagination of director Chomet. The story is bizarre, unique, and thoroughly unpredictable, while its images resemble some kind of bastard offspring of the linear realism of George Grosz and the fantastic foreboding of Edward Gorey. Although its country of origin is France, the language used in the film is a universal sort: grunts, barks, gestures, and ambient noise that make viewing The Triplets of Belleville more akin to watching a silent film than a sound picture (as the Jacques Tati poster hanging in a bedroom probably hints). The story is one of a boy, his grandmother, and his dog, and a dream of riding in the Tour de France – a dream that is interrupted by an organized gambling syndicate that captures the boy and causes his grandmother and dog to chase after him from France to Belleville (a place whose entryway is the Statue of Liberty) and meet up with a curious performance group, the Triplets of Belleville. It all sort of makes sense at the time, although it’s sensible in that animated suspension-of-disbelief kind of way. In fact, despite its brief running time, The Triplets of Belleville may have a little too much narrative drive for its own good, and occasionally tests the audience’s capacity for ceaselessly imaginative oddities that don’t stack up in the usual way. But never mind. Let the movie wash over you, and, at the very least, it will cleanse your palate. Just compare the movie’s lumpen but delightfully realistic dog, Bruno, to any cute cartoon animal offered for popular adoption by the studios, and you’ll understand la différence. Screening at the Dobie Theatre only before The Triplets of Belleville is an unearthed film relic called "Destino," made in 1946 (although not completed until 2001) by the odd pairing of Walt Disney and Salvador Dalí. Searching for some new directions after the war, Disney commissioned the surrealist master to draw up some paintings and story sketches for an intended short film, although the project was scratched before getting very far. In 2000, the studio uncovered Dalí’s original art for the project, and studio head Roy Disney decided to go ahead and complete the work. The six-minute "Destino" is directed by Dominique Monfery and has a story by Dalí and John Hench. The film is a love story between Dahlia and Chronos and is redolent with the now-familiar Dalí images of melting clocks and eyeballs.