Perhaps the most original film of 2003, The Triplets of Belleville is a bizarre, grotesque journey that is the textbook definition of what an animated film for adults should be. Writer/director Sylvain Chomet has delivered an amazing movie that, while certainly not for everyone, is a real treat for those who "get it."
The plot of Triplets is merely incidental to the visuals. It's sufficient to say it follows the tale of an old woman's search for her kidnapped grandson, a cyclist who goes missing during the Tour de France. She goes up against the French Mafia with the help of three aging singers, the triplets of the title.
While the story is bizarre enough in itself, the way in which events unfold visually brings a whole new sense to what visual storytelling can be. Every scene unfolds without dialogue, so characters' subtle gestures and expressions become key to explaining exactly what is going on. The music works hand-in-hand with the animation to convey an emotional urgency or stasis as appropriate. Ultimately, this is a story told through pictures and music that is every bit as nuanced and well crafted as a dialogue-heavy movie would have been, if not more so.
While very different in tone and style from Hayao Miyazaki's 2001 feature Spirited Away, Triplets is likely to evoke a similar reaction from American viewers, challenging our notions of what is acceptable and even possible in an animated movie.
Some viewers may find the unique style of animation and slow pacing off-putting, but those who are willing to keep an open mind are in for a cinematic experience unlike any other.
The anamorphic 1.78:1 print is arguably one of the most beautiful films available on DVD. Every line and color of animation is brilliantly rendered and crackles with life on the screen. The visual presentation puts that of U.S. animation studios such as Disney and Dreamworks to shame.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is virtually flawless, from the crackle of the projector in the opening flashback to the rollicking beats of the title song. The sound and music push the limits of what can be done with Dolby 5.1 to amazing effect.
Extras include a trailer, two making-of featurettes, three scenes with commentary, and a music video. The scene-by-scene commentary track is interesting enough that one wishes a full-length commentary had been included as well. While not exactly stacked with features, the disc includes enough extra material to make it a worthy purchase for fans of the film.
Film: *** Disc: ****