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  Directed by
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 1.78:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  Subtitles
  • None
  Extras
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Audio commentary
  • 2 Featurette
  • Music video
The Triplets Of Belleville
Studio Canal/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 80 mins . PG . NTSC

  Feature
Contract

This will be my shortest review, ever! (Well, not really, but you will soon see my point!) This is a film so incredibly esoteric that it is virtually impossible to scale from 1 to 10. You will leave The Triplets of Belleville either extremely frustrated or amazingly entertained. I’ll just try to narrow the field down a little, so there will be less of you out there who walk away with the urge to punch something.

We follow the grandmother of a lone bicycle rider, as well as her large (but often hilarious) pooch. After receiving a trike as a boy, this rider sets out to be France’s answer to Lance Armstrong, training heavily for just one glimpse of the high-life – the Tour de France. While racing, our straining rider is captured by ghastly men in black suits, and is taken away to the town of Belleville, for reasons we’re unaware. So off the grandmother goes, in search of her loveable grandchild, armed with the faithful pooch at her side. She crosses the sea on a paddle-trike, in one of the best scenes in cinema history, making exceptional use of Mozart’s Mass in C Minor, with the will and determination only a grandmother can wield!

The now destitute grandmother finds it difficult in this new bustling metropolis. That is, until she meets a band of aged singers, the Triplets of Belleville, bearing catchy tunes and hand grenades, who take her in as part of their troupe. And so they’re off again – hunting down the black figures who kidnapped the grandson, with their always quirky sense of humour trailing behind them.

I don’t often like to use the term ‘strange’ or ‘weird’ to describe a film. Recently they’ve turned into a terrible cliché, with people blaming their distaste on the ‘weird factor’, rather than a film itself. However, this is one (and may be the only one) film that certainly warrants the title of ‘strange’, as there’s really no other word in the English vocabulary that can possibly describe it. Some critics have remarked The Triplets of Belleville as “fascinatingly strange”, others “terribly strange”, and others again “too strange for human comprehension”. It’s really not David Lynch-ish, or anything remotely near it. It’s just that you don’t see elderly women catching frogs using explosives and umbrellas every day of the week do you? No? How strange.

Considering the incredibly tight budget, French director Sylvain Chomet has produced an exceptionally well-drawn piece of animation. All the quirks and style that makes The Triplets of Belleville a film to remember are in its innovative animation. The derivative, yet brilliant design of the black suited kidnappers is exactly how you always imagined the ‘bad guys’ – big, square, black, nasty-looking. Chomet makes limited, but effective use of CGI throughout the majority of scenes, as it’s clear the film would not have worked with these elements (specifically the bicycles) hand-drawn. These can be distracting, but in time blend in with the animation.

For fans of animation, and general quirks, I encourage you to pick up The Triplets of Belleville and give it a go. For those who prefer a more standardised film, (with more than two lines of dialogue) I’d encourage you to give it a miss.

  Video
  Audio
  Extras
Contract

The image quality on this release is fantastic. The great, vibrant colour of the original source has been reproduced in impressive detail and clarity. There is no aliasing or shimmering present throughout the film, which was an excellent surprise considering that animation is especially susceptible to harsh aliasing.

A number of film artefacts was all that spoiled this transfer, often appearing as black or white specs predominately in the top half of the screen. They were relatively infrequent, but noticeable. However, considering the ‘vintage’ feel most of this film had, they did not distract at all!

This transfer is in NTSC, rather than the regular PAL format found on region four DVDs. For those without NTSC-capable equipment, you’ll need to order yourself a copy from overseas, as this is no good to you.

There are two audio tracks provided: English and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1. And, virtually, they’re the same. (As mentioned in the review, this is a film with virtually no dialogue.) Both take full advantage of the rear speakers, to add special effects or ambience. There’s little to fault really. My only concern was the real lack of a sub presence, which during certain scenes, would have been welcomed.

A range of extras are on offer, all of which are worthwhile and interesting. A making-of featurette featuring a number of people involved in the production of the film proves a very interesting little piece, far better than most 15-minute ads posing as making-of featurettes. Three scenes with audio commentary from director and composer also prove fascinating, adding insight into various aspects of the animation, as well as looking at their characters and story. Director Sylvain Chomet discusses his approach to animation, and the style he wanted to convey with The Triplets of Belleville in ‘The Cartoon According to Sylvain Chomet’. This will prove especially rewarding to fans of animation.

The music-video for the Academy Award nominated song featured in the film, and a theatrical trailer round of the extras department.

I’m particularly disappointed with this release. The original language track is completely missing, something I don’t accept. This film was made in France, in French. To release it on DVD with only a dubbed version is pretty insulting. The video is in NTSC, which again is simply lazy. There are video standards, and I find it fascinating why they aren’t policed. This is a DVD released for Australian distribution, and needs to be encoded in its native PAL format.

If you were a fan of this film, I would certainly advise you source it from overseas. The UK (region free) version includes the original French track (in DTS), is in PAL and features a good range of extras. To avoid confusion now, the British release of the film has been retitled ‘Belleville rendez-vous’.

The Triplets of Belleville certainly a fascinating little film. It’s definitely not the most accessible piece of animation you’ll find, but don’t let that sway you! It’s the type of film everyone really needs to give a go, as no one will ever manage convince you to like or dislike it.


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  •   And I quote...
    "While certainly strange and esoteric, The Triplets of Belleville is a fascinating animated film."
    - Nick Watts
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Onkyo DR-S2.0
    • TV:
          Samsung 68cm
    • Speakers:
          Onkyo HTP-2
    • Centre Speaker:
          Onkyo HTP-2
    • Surrounds:
          Onkyo HTP-2
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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