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Sylvain Chomet
Béatrice Bonifassi, Lina Boudreault, Michèle Caucheteux, Jean-Claude Donda, Mari-Lou Gauthier, Charles Linton, Michel Robin, Monica Viegas
Writing Credits:
Sylvain Chomet

You've never seen anything like The Triplets Of Belleville, a wildly inventive and highly original animated feature crowded with colorful characters and fantastic imagery.

Kidnapped by mysterious square-shouldered henchmen, a Tour de France cyclist named Champion is spirited across the ocean to the teeming metropolis of Belleville. His grandmother and faithful dog follow his trail and are taken in by a trio of eccentric jazz-era divas. The motley sleuths follow the clues to an underground betting parlor and now the chase is on!

Richly imagined, wildly inventive and acclaimedias one of the best films of the year, "Triplets is terrific!" - Richard Corliss, Time Magazine.

Box Office:
$8 million.
Opening Weekend
$143.762 thousand on 6 screens.
Domestic Gross
$6.728 million.

Rated PG-13

Widescreen 1.78:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1

Runtime: 81 min.
Price: $24.96
Release Date: 5/4/2004

• Select Scenes with Commentary
• “Making of The Triplets of Belleville
• “The Cartoon According to Director Sylvain Chomet” Featurette
• Music Video
• Trailers


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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The Triplets Of Belleville (2003)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 3, 2004)

Of the three Oscar nominees for Best Animated Feature, American audiences knew two of them well. Brother Bear didn’t rake in the bucks, but given its origins as a Disney flick, it enjoyed a high level of awareness. Finding Nemo won the prize and emerged as a true smash hit; it grossed a whopping $339 million, which made it the second highest earning film of 2003.

The third nominee came as more of a surprise to most folks. A French import, The Triplets of Belleville received limited distribution and only took in $6 million here. Despite its lower profile, the movie enjoyed a nice audience, one that seems likely to expand with its DVD release.

The film opens with a preface that shows a 1920s nightclub act called the Triplets of Belleville. We watch a performance from them and then meet a boy named Champion. Apparently his parents died, so he lives with his grandma, Mme. Souze. Champion seems disinterested in most activities until his grandma gives him a tricycle.

We leap ahead about 15 years and learn that Champion developed into a competitive bicyclist. He still lives with his grandma, and she helps him train for the Tour de France. As he rides in that race, someone interferes with Grandma’s truck that follows behind him, and two mysterious square-shouldered men in black kidnap him.

With the help of his loyal, fat old dog Bruno, Mme. Souze tracks Champion and follows him across the sea. She ends up in the teeming metropolis of Belleville, which looks a lot like New York. Down on her luck, Grandma meets the Triplets of Belleville, who are now elderly former jazz singers. They take her in and help. We see that gangsters enslaved Champion for gambling purposes. The rest of the movie follows what happens to him and his grandmother.

Without question, no one will mistake Triplets for something from Disney. Many trumpet that fact as a positive, since a lot of folks regard all things Disney as being the same as all things schmaltzy and cheesy. I like Disney efforts quite a lot, so I don’t consider the “unDisney” elements as a positive in and of themselves, but I do think it’s fun to see something so very different from the standard fare.

Actually, I went into Triplets with trepidation. A decidedly French flick, I worried it would come across as self-consciously eccentric and quirky, and a few of those elements occur. The movie presents more gross elements than I’d like, such as the Triplets’ method of gathering frogs and making them into soup.

In addition, the visual style seems awfully grotesque. Apparently influenced by Gahan Wilson, the movie looks ugly. I don’t expect – or want – everything to look cute and cuddly, but the film’s appearance actively turns me off at times.

Nonetheless, most of Triplets works quite well. It essentially acts as a silent film. A few lines of dialogue pop up at the start and end, and we hear a smattering of off-camera bits such as TV reports. However, the vast majority of the flick progresses without dialogue, and it relies on its visuals to succeed.

It does so, partially due to an unusually languid pace. Normally one might regard that as a negative, for the movie takes its own sweet time to develop. While this had the potential to make it dull, it doesn’t end up that way. Instead, the film moves at a deliberate and rich rate that explores the story nicely and allows the characters room to breathe.

The Triplets of Belleville provides a pretty creative and inventive piece. It offers an unusual way to tell an unusual and simple story. Really, there’s not much to it, but it seems generally charming and entertaining.

Note: make sure you stick around through the end of the closing credits for a little treat.

The DVD Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B+/ Bonus C

The Triplets of Belleville appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The movie consistently looked good during this accurate and well-rendered presentation.

Sharpness looked positive. The movie appeared nicely distinct and accurate. I noticed no problems related to softness or fuzziness in this well-defined presentation. Jagged edges and moiré effects created no concerns, and I also noticed no signs of edge enhancement. Print flaws seemed non-existent.

Triplets presented a stylized palette that looked clean and distinctive. It featured tones that tended toward rusty or yellowish tints, and it replicated them well. The colors seemed subdued but concise. Black levels came across as deep and dense, while low-light shots were smooth and well defined. Overall, Triplets gave us an excellent transfer.

The Triplets of Belleville presented a reasonably solid Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. The soundfield maintained a moderate emphasis on the front channels. Music demonstrated nice stereo presence and also featured some decent movement and delineation of effects. Surround usage mostly aimed at reinforcement, though more than a few sequences brought the spectrum to life. Overall, the environment seemed appropriately lively and involving.

Audio quality was solid. Speech played a very minor role but always sounded natural and distinctive, and I noticed no signs of edginess or issues related to intelligibility. Music seemed bright and reasonably dynamic, with clear highs and acceptably vivid lows. Effects appeared clean and accurate and also demonstrated pretty good range. Bass response seemed deep and firm. In the end, the audio of Triplets was vivid and well rendered.

Only a few minor extras round out the DVD. In the “Featurettes” area we get two programs. The Making of The Triplets of Belleville lasts 15 minutes and 51 seconds as it includes movie snippets, behind the scenes shots, and interview tidbits. We hear from director Sylvain Chomet, composer Benoit Charest, animator Hugues Martel, and art director Evgeni Tomov. We learn about the movie’s use of music, the animation style and techniques, production design and backgrounds, the use of CG and attempts to make it match the 2-D animation, color schemes and character design. I wouldn’t call this an in-depth examination of the movie, but it covers a reasonable amount of territory. We get some quick but decent notes that offer a fairly useful overview.

In The Cartoon According to Sylvain Chomet, we find a five-minute and 22-second clip that offers comments from the director. He demonstrates his drawing techniques, executing his work, and talks about his thoughts in regard to animation. He also gets into a little specific character design. It’s a moderately interesting piece but not anything terribly revealing, and it probably could have been wrapped into the prior show.

Also located in the “Featurettes” domain, we discover Select Scenes with Commentary. This covers three sequences: “Opening” (two minutes, 53 seconds), “Restaurant Performance” (1:26) and “Tuning the Wheel” (2:37). Recorded in French, two unnamed participants speak and offer some specifics about a few elements like designing and creating the characters and situations as well as creative prop elements and audio design. A few nice notes pop up, but this seems like a fairly insubstantial feature, mostly since it goes by so quickly.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we locate a music video for “Belleville Rendez-vous”. This features a singer with a haircut that seems to combine the looks of Eddie Munster and Wolverine. He lip-synchs at a therapy session and also shows up in some movie clips. It’s a fairly creative video but it gives me the creeps.

A decidedly unusual animated feature, The Triplets of Belleville occasionally comes across as a little too pretentious for its own good. However, those moments seem rare, as the movie mostly appears distinctive and entertaining. The DVD offers excellent picture plus solid sound and a few fairly minor extras. I’d like more material in the latter category, but the movie itself comes across well enough to earn Triplets my recommendation.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.6428 Stars Number of Votes: 28
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