After having sat through too many disappointing major Hollywood this year already, I delved into the Netflix instant streaming catalogue to find solace and to cleanse my palate, as it were. I had heard before of The Triplets of Belleville, but I initially dismissed it as the type of ponderous European animation that you’d need to be nostalgic about to properly appreciate. But, being the wild and free-spirited soul that I am, I decided to throw caution to the wind and give it a watch anyway. So imagine my surprise when I found Triplets to be one of the most weirdly absorbing and imaginative films that I’ve seen in a very long time.
Written and directed by French auteur Sylvain Chomet, the film follows the story of kindhearted Madame Souza who must team up with an eccentric singing group, the eponymous Triplets of Belleville, when her grandson is kidnapped by the French mob. The story, mostly told through pantomime and music, is simple yet supremely engaging and, while I generally feel that the whole “storytelling without words” approach is incredibly difficult to pull off effectively, The Triplets of Belleville manages it with masterful skill.
Special mention should be made of the unique animation style that at once includes elements of caricature and exaggeration, but still manages to present a beautifully detailed world that’s a real joy to behold. The city of Belleville itself is a sort of amalgam of New York, Montreal, and Quebec, and the juxtaposition between the bright colors and rolling hills of the French countryside and the hard angles and massive scale of the city establishes a tone that words on their own might fail to capture.
The visuals and sound design are both top notch, and the story doesn’t sacrifice pacing for emotional impact. It’s clear to me that Chomet and associates put a hell of a lot of heart into The Triplets of Belleville, and the result is a masterfully crafted film that still isn’t afraid to have a bit of fun.
Rating: 4 out of 5