Film Notes

Film Notes #13: The Triplets of Belleville (2003)

Sylvain Chomet’s delightful animated film is Number 13 in my Film Notes series.

SPOILER ALERT: Plot details will be revealed!

Sylvain Chomet’s delightful animated film is Number 13 in my Film Notes series.

For those unfamiliar, this series of posts involves me watching a film every day for 30 days, with the following rules:

  • It must be a film I have already seen.
  • I must make notes whilst I’m watching it.
  • Pauses are allowed but the viewing must all be one session.
  • It can’t be a current cinema release.

It will hopefully capture my instant thoughts about a movie provide a snapshot of my film diet for 30 days and curate interesting links to the film in question.

Here are my notes on The Triplets of Belleville (2003) which I watched on DVD on Wednesday 4th April.

N.B. For some reason it was released in the UK as Belleville Rendez-vous but it seems the title has now realigned with the rest of the world.

  • I first saw this at 20th Century Fox in London during July 2003
  • It is still a film I return to and marvel at for it’s incredible surreal charm.
  • This was Chomet’s first feature and an international co-production between companies in France, the United Kingdom, Belgium, and Canada.
  • The ‘period’ opening is very well done, establishing the notion of the Triplets as famous singers (even though they are very much supporting characters)
  • This is a film I often recommend to people if they are bored of mainstream animation and want something a bit different and unusual.
  • It combines the imaginative panache of SPIRITED AWAY (2001) with the wordless charm of THE ARTIST (2011)
  • I actually want to live in Madame Souza’s house with a dog like Bruno.
  • Sound is vital in lending the slightly surreal animation a sense of realism. Especially since there is virtually no dialogue.
  • The emotional distance between the young boy and his grandma is well established.
  • Touching scene when we see the boy’s parents – presumably Souza’s son/daughter?
  • Great touch that Bruno goes crazy at the passing trains – clearly this was written by dog owners.
  • The use of a Hoover, whisk and mower for a cycling warm down is hilarious
  • Interesting circular shot as Souza puts the model wheel on the model Eiffel tower
  • Absence of dialogue makes us focus on the nuances of character
  • Interesting choice of shots when we see Champion from above and when Souza reflects on the photos before turning the lights off
  • Love the way Bruno jumps on the bed the way big dogs actually do.
  • Bruno’s dream sequences are genius.
  • Souza’s whistle is another good example of sound in the film (Foley is actually
  • The gangsters bodies have an interesting geometric shape – note that all characters in this are distinctive but have key differences
  • The kidnap of Champion happens slowly – in a lot of movies they happen in a flash
  • The pedalo sequence is unexpectedly moving
  • Belleville is a cross between Tim Burton’s Gotham in BATMAN (1989) and the environments of Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s THE CITY OF LOST CHILDREN (1995)
  • Hamburger restaurant scene seems to be some kind of commentary on American obesity and capitalism
  • In the triplets apartment even the Oscars are overweight (the film was nominated for Best Animated film)
  • The fishing for frogs scene is an instant classic
  • Transitions between scenes are worth keeping an eye on – note how frog spawn becomes the moon
  • Why does one of the Triplets stop Souza from doing the hoovering and reading the paper? (Maybe the latter is a stage prop?)
  • I love the fact that the sisters all watch TV together in bed
  • What exactly is going on with the kidnapped cyclists? Contraband electricity?
  • Residents of the nightclub seem suitably grotesque.
  • I read once that despite eating fattier food, rates of obesity in France are much lower than the US. Why? Healthier ingredients and smaller portions.
  • Like the visual image of gangsters in pairs
  • The betting scene reminds me of THE DEER HUNTER (1978) – it also appears to be some kind of commentary on the film technique of rear-projection
  • The framing, composition and overall visual storytelling are excellent.
  • Almost every scene is punctuated with a surreal, inventive humour.
  • Theatre scene reminds me of INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS (2009)
  • Note the yellow headlights on the gangster’s cars.
  • I like the fact that one of the ‘vehicles’ during the climax is effectively a portable cinema.
  • Nice payoff with Bruno barking at the train on the level crossing
  • It just struck me that the gangsters all look like Neville Thurlbeck
  • What other film ends up with four old women and a dog being chased by gangsters in a car chase?
  • Chomet’s follow up film would be the equally marvellous THE ILLUSIONIST (2010)

2 replies on “Film Notes #13: The Triplets of Belleville (2003)”

Great series, thanks for keeping on! I’m bookmarking some of these so that I can have them handy when re/watching them. (BTW, Inglorious Basterds was made in 2009)

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