Sick of Phil Collins songs and cute animal sidekicks? Sylvain Chomet's bizarre new full-length cartoon, The Triplets of Belleville, follows the story of an atypical French family: Champion, a lonely boy-turned wraith-like cyclist, his club-footed, industrious grandmother, Madame Souza and their obese dog, Bruno. Champion trains throughout the hilly French countryside with Souza, his relentless coach, in tow atop his old tricycle. With prolific thighs and a pair of bulging calves, Champion enters the Tour de France. Here, his attempts at victory are thwarted by a sinister pair of mobsters, who kidnap him and take him across the ocean to Belleville, where a group of French mafia thrives unbeknownst to an overweight, hamburger-gorging population. Souza and Champion follow via paddle boat and are taken under the wing of three geriatric sisters who make music with empty refrigerators and old copies of newspaper.
One could count the number of lines of dialogue in the 80-minute narrative on the misshapen toes of a club foot. Instead of using words, Chomet relies upon the brilliant music of BenoŒt Charest and the fascinating aesthetic of exaggeration apparent in his characters. With Triplets, Chomet declares himself a unique and welcome voice in international cinema.
-- Conor Fetting-Smith