The Triplets of Belleville

Paul R. Potts

We just rented the animated film The Triplets of Belleville. It is absolutely fantastic — easily one of the best animated films I’ve ever seen! I’d rate it right up there with the best work of Hayao Miyazaki, including his masterpiece Spirited Away.

It is in French with no subtitles, but that hardly matters because there is almost no dialog whatsoever. It is almost a silent film except for great sound effects and music.

The settings are very dark and somber, but the caricature-style drawings of the people are done with a fantastically light and deft touch. One of the best characters is a fat, elderly dog who barks at trains; we even get to go inside the dog’s surreal black-and-white dreams.

The action is extraordinarily silly, but not just in a slapstick way; there is a remarkable attention to detail, and the funniest parts are played out in absolutely deadpan silence, just as they should be.

It lost out in the Academy Awards to Finding Nemo. I enjoyed Finding Nemo, and it deserved to make money and win awards, but it is hard to believe that anti-French sentiment surrounding the Iraq war wasn’t at least partly to blame for the failure of Triplets to win any awards; as artistry goes, the two films are simply not in the same universe, and can’t be compared by a common set of criteria. Nemo is the result of a lot of hard work and craft, but Triplets is a rarity, a true work of art and inspiration.

Ann Arbor, Michigan
May 2004

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