Monday, January 15, 2007

The Triplets of Bellview

The Triplets of Belleville

Date: 04 May, 2004   —   $18.72   —   DVD / VHS

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I don't normally review movies on here but I'm making an exception for this because it is so very strange.

This is not a movie that would get made in America because we don't think this way. Except, just maybe, for Terry Gilliam. It's just plain bizarre. And judging from the reviews, this is a love-it or hate-it kind of movie. Overall, it shows a bizarre sensibility much like that shown in Delicatessen, where a sense of surrealism underlies a seemingly naturalistic world.

Though there are some bits of dialogue that have been translated into English, they're muttered and pretty much unnecessary. You could watch the whole movie in a language you don't understand (like, say, the French they leave in without translating or subtitling) and it makes sense. The whole movie functions like a mood piece, where the little details are left to create an impression, rather than relying on action.

I won't go into the plot— it's far, far better to go in blind and experience the madness firsthand— but I will state that the true center of the film is the relationship between the grandmother and the cyclist. It is obvious that in her quiet way, she idolizes him, and will do anything to keep him safe and happy. And the lengths to which she demonstrates that are incredible.

The animation has repeatedly been referred to as "hand drawn", which is true on the face of things, but it is quite obvious that computers were used extensively throughout the film, and not just at certain obvious points (such as the dreams of the faithful dog.) A little hint: every time there is a pan, revolve, or even a character seen from different oblique angles in one shot, computers were used as an aid to the drawing process. Look at animations from the 40s and 50s— they avoid those types of shots because they are technically difficult. Such shots in this movie show how computers can assist in all forms of animation, not merely in the style of Pixar features.

A few complaints have been made about the "anti-American" nature of Belleville, which the obese Statue of Liberty in its harbor would seem to support, but the director specifically stated that Belleville is a capital of an overly consumeristic society with its look based on Montreal, so it is entirely possible to not be offended and enjoy the film anyway. Just so you know.

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