Monday, February 19, 2024

THE TRIPLETS OF BELLEVILLE (2003) (Sony Pictures Classics Blu-ray Review)


Label: Sony Pictures Classics 
Region Code: Region-Free 
Rating: PG-13 
Duration: 80 Minutes 59 Seconds 
Audio: French DTS-HD MA 5.1 with Optional English 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.66:1) 
Director: Sylvain Chomet
Cast: Jean-Claude Donda, Monica Viegas, Michel Robin

The French animated film The Triplets of Belleville (2003) made quite a splash internationally 20-years ago, it even garnered an two Academy Award nominations, but lost Best Animated Feature to Pixar's Finding Nemo. The flick tells the tale of a young, melancholy boy named Champion, an orphan who lives with his elderly grandmother Madame Souza. At the top of the film they are watching an old black and white TV show featuring the singing group Triplets of Belleville, comprised of sisters Rose, Blanche, and Violette. Grandmother Souza make several attempts to cheer-up her sad-faced grandson, buying him a puppy dog named Bruno , but it does little to lift his spirits. Then one day while cleaning his room she finds his notebook filled with clippings of racing bikes and Tour de France bicyclists, so she buys him his first tricycle, which brings a smile to his face foe the first time. 

Flash forward several years and Champion has continues his love of cycling, and is now training for the famed Tour de France with help from Souza who follows behind him on his old tricycle. However, during the race Champion is kidnapped by French mobsters who whisk him away to the United States to the metropolis of Belleville. Madame Souza and Bruno rent an pedal boat and improbably follow the steamer ship carrying Champion to the U.S., crossing the treacherous ocean to rescue him. 

Arriving in the U.S. they lose track of Champion, and having no money end up on the streets with no food and no shelter, until they are taken in my none other than the now elderly Triplets of Belleville, who feed them a steady diet of frogs and tadpoles, seemingly their only means of sustenance. Meanwhile, Champion, and other kidnapped bicyclists, are forced into pedal-powered a gambling machine by the mobsters, each are pushed to their limits, and when they can pedal no more they are put down with a bullet to the head. 

Eventually grandma Souza, Bruno and the eccentric jazz-era divas sleuth the whereabouts of the Champion, and set about freeing him and the other bicyclists from the mobster, leading to an exciting bullet-riddled chase through the streets of Belleville. 

This animated feature is nearly wordless, chock full of wildly inventive animation with a surreality that has a wonderful flow to it. It's not exactly kid friendly either, there's racial insensitivity and death at the hand of mobsters, but it's told in such a whimsical way. The character designs are a bit rubbery limbed and odd, the people of Belleville are fat in a Botelo sort of way, meanwhile the mob henchmen are oddly geometric in design, while the mafia boss is comically diminutive, and Champion is as thin as a string of spaghetti with the exception of his exaggerated thick muscular thighs and calves, having developed from years of training for the tour-de-france. There was nothing quite like it before, nor after. The Triplets of Belleville is still a uniquely singular animated spectacle full of whimsy with an undercurrent of menace, and one that continues to delight twenty years later. 

Audio/Video: The Triplets of Belleville (2003) re-emerges on Blu-ray from Sony Pictures Classics in 1080p HD framed in the original 1.66:1 widescreen. The animated new-classic looks terrific with colors that appear accurate, the source is in in great shape, and the mix of hand drawn and 3-D animated visuals are tight. Audio comes by way of uncompressed French DTS-HD MA 51. surround with optional English subtitles. The track is clean and well-balanced, there's not a lot of dialogue present but discreet effects and the score sounds terrific. I did have a reader ask me if this was a MOD or pressed disc, indicating that this was previously issued as an MOD release at some point, and I can confirm this is a pressed Blu-ray disc for those curious.  

Extras come by way of a 2-min The Magnificent Life of Marcel Pagnol Teaser with Introduction by Director Sylvain Chomet; the 16-min The Making of The Triplets of Belleville featurette; 3 Select Scenes with Commentary; the 5-min The Cartoon According to Sylvain Chomet; 3-min "Belleville Rendez-Vous" Music Video; and the 2-min Theatrical Trailer. These all appear to be archival in nature, never having owned this in home video I am unfamiliar with past editions and what this may or may not share with those in regard to A/V and extras. The single-disc release arrives in a standard keepcase with a one-sided wrap featuring illustrated artwork. 

Special Features: 
- The Magnificent Life of Marcel Pagnol Teaser with Introduction by Director Sylvain Chomet (2:25) 
- The Making of The Triplets of Belleville (15:53) 
- 3 Select Scenes with Commentary: Seq. 1 (6:57), Seq. 2 (2:53), Seq. 3 (1:25) 
- The Cartoon According to Sylvain Chomet (5:21) 
- "Belleville Rendez-Vous" Music Video (3:21) 
- Theatrical Trailer (2:10) 

Screenshots from the Sony Pictures Classics Blu-ray: 

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