By Noah Beaver
What do you think of when someone says ‘animation’? Perhaps you’ll imagine the cartoonish, yet realistic characters in Pixar. Or maybe the goofy and fluid Princesses and animal sidekicks of Disney. If you don’t get invited to a lot of parties, you’ll likely think of the giant eyed, small skirted, badly dubbed girls and boys of Japanese cartoons. But there’s one country that differs far from America and Japan, the only one that’s still trying to keep the fluid 2d animation alive even today. This is one of the best movies from that country with some of the best animators, France’s Triplets of Belleville.
Though the plot is simple, it’s unpredictable, stop me if you’ve heard this one before: A grandma buys her son a bike. Years later, he becomes a professional bike racer. He then becomes kidnaped by the French mafia, who ship him over to New York, New York (which looks more like Montreal with horrifically morbidly obese people), so that they can make him race against other bikers against his will for gambling. His grandma and her dog follow the kidnappers to America, where they find the grandmas favorite (and old) musical stars, the Triplets of Belleville.
To summarize this movies art style seems impossible, the closest I can compare it to is vintage cartoons such Felix the Cat and Betty Boop, suggested by the fluidity of the animation and the intro of the movie that pays homage to those tunes, as well as the fact that the technology used in the film suggests that it takes place sometimes in the 30’s, when those cartoons were popular.
The music isn’t epic, nor is it simple. It’s classical, paying homage to French Music, the main attractions are the scenes where the characters play tunes using household objects, a genre called Found Music.
The visuals are unlike anything else, one can’t help but laugh, because even the most minor characters have been drawn with the most amazing proportions, so much that they’ll always remain in your mind. Take this snooty French waiter for example:
His eyes are always closed, his head is always closer to his butt then his chest (really, his upper torso should have broken off long ago), and he only has 2 minutes of screen time. And that’s part of the beauty of the film, every single character leaves an impression, no matter how insignificant. That makes this movie eerie, not weird, though the visuals are unlike anything I’ve ever seen, the plot is easy to understand even without dialogue, calling it weird would be an evasion.
If you like animation, watch it. If you think animation is only for kids, watch it. If you think originality is dead, watch it. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll also wish more people would make films like this.