Classic Film: Belleville Rendez-Vous
Director: Sylvain Chomet
Starring: Beatrice Bonifassi (Voice)
Runtime: 80 mins
Rating: * * * * *
Belleville Rendez-Vous is a cartoon from writer/director Sylvain Chomet and animation team Les Armateurs, telling the story of Parisian grandmother Madame Souza, her lonely grandson, Champion, and their morbidly obese Bassett hound, Bruno. The film is almost completely dialogue-free, relying instead on the eloquence of its imagery.
After her grandson Champion is kidnapped by a wine-guzzling mafia boss and his rectangular cronies during the Tour de France, Mme Souza sets out across the Atlantic to launch a daring rescue, with the help of an old vaudeville music act, the Triplets of Belleville. Before she can initiate one of the most memorable chase scenes in cinema, the diminutive Mme Souza must overcome the excesses of America – a banner reading “in vino veritas” characterises the over-grown Big Apple setting – and the underground betting ring behind her grandson’s kidnapping.
Fortunately, it is not absolutely necessary to understand the fanciful machinations of plot to appreciate the flamboyant brilliance of the film’s animation, artwork, and score (written by Benoît Charest) – the music scenes with the triplets exhibit a light-handed and constantly surprising kind of manic creativity, and Mme Souza and her dog are two hugely empathetic and touching heroes. They are marvellous underdogs, and following them in their fight against a physically bigger adversary is genuinely affecting.
The film embraces a refreshingly unorthodox storytelling ethic, and none of the subtlety of narrative is lost by its dialogue-free script, allowing the imaginative strength of the artwork carry a hugely satisfying film that challenges the raft of interchangable computer-animated movies regularly on release.