Movie music is an area I’ve ventured into from time to time, but I don’t think I’ve ever written about a film that I saw a few years ago and loved in spite of the fact that it’s in French and I do not speak the language. Of course, I should mention that it’s a feature-length cartoon that is virtually free of dialogue and relies instead on stunning visual imagery. You might have heard of it — it’s called The Triplets Of Belleville.
I won’t attempt to describe the entire film, but the triplets of the title show up very early with brief flashback scenes that are done in the style of primitive early cartoons. The Belleville Sisters are stars in the early jazz age, and they share the stage with inventive caricatures of real performers from the era like Fred Astaire and Django Reinhardt (who plays guitar with his toes).
The story then advances several decades and the look of the film also changes, to a rich and detailed animation style that fills the screen with fascinating images. We meet a pudgy orphan boy being raised by his grandmother, who is obviously poor but still dedicates herself to providing for his every need. That includes getting a puppy that turns into a faithful friend (and becomes one of the funniest characters in the movie) and a tricycle that the boy loves. As he grows older and stronger she gets him a bicycle, and eventually helps him train for the Tour de France
The grandmother becomes his entire support staff as the boy — now grown, complete with bulging leg muscles — begins the race. Unfortunately, he is kidnapped by a gang of evildoers with devious intent. The action gets fast and furious as the grandmother enlists the aid of the Belleville Sisters — now old, but still living together and full of life — and tries to rescue her grandson.
That’s the basic story but there is much, much more to enjoy and I would encourage everyone to give it a try. I’ve included some video below but even if you expand it to full screen it doesn’t really do the film justice. (Later note: video is down in comments.) I think the entire movie is available (in segments) on Youtube but I would recommend getting the DVD and watching it on a big screen to enjoy all the rich detail.