Thursday, July 28, 2005

Triplets of Belleville

This movie very nearly defies reviewing - not because it's especially good or bad - but simply because it's hard to describe. It's in French, but there are no subtitles because there's no real dialogue. There are both good guys and bad guys, but the conflict between them never truly reaches an emotional climax. It's about a boy and his grandmother and the title refers to a trio of singing sisters whom the grandmother meets halfway through the film, but that doesn't really matter because, when it comes down to it, the most sympathetic character is the dog.

Do you see what I'm getting at? In the end, however, the story is quite simple. Probably because the story's not the point. Not even close.

The Triplets of Belleville is an extended animated ballet. It is an exercise in rhythm, color, and shape. It is dark and grotesque but also bright and beautiful and the whole thing is infused with a cool Francophone jazz score. It's not a masterpiece, but oh boy is it weird and magnificent. You really just need to see it to understand.

3 Comments:

Blogger Quimby said...

I think it's also an allegory about American materialism, imperialism, and general excess.

But that might just be me.

-d

July 28, 2005 4:53 PM  
Blogger steve said...

I definitely agree with that interpretation. My favorite manifestation of that allegory is in the notion of mechanization.

While back in France, Champion, his grandmother, and Bruno the dog lead a very routinized existence. Grandmother blows her whistle at a steady cadence, Champion pedals in time, and (my favorite) every fifteen minutes Bruno scrambles up the stairs to bark at the passing train. Although this routine might seem oppressive, there's a certain beauty and musicality to it. Each character's routine represents a layer of movement and sound and, when combined, they unwittingly become a kind of dance piece, as in the fabulous sequence illustrating Champion's training, culminating in the scene at the dinner table.

Life across the ocean has that same element of routinized and mechanized life, but it distorts it and robs it of value. While staying the triplets' apartment, Bruno can still bark at the passing trains, but they don't come at any set interval. As a result, his barking just becomes cacaphony. The triplets themselves have a routine in which they prepare dinner, but what they eat, the manner in which they eat it, and they themselves are all grotesque. There is no beauty in either of these routines.

The most potent example, however, is Champion's confinement. Literally attached to a machine and forced to cycle at gunpoint for the betting amusement of criminal wine tycoons, he has become no more than a cog, whereas he was once more like a performer in a ballet.

In Triplets of Belleville, mechanized routine can be a beautiful thing, but it is ruined by the greed and corruption of urban life in America.

July 29, 2005 5:34 PM  
Blogger Quimby said...

yeah. right.

August 01, 2005 7:14 PM  

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