Belleville Rendez-vous

Director: Sylvain Chomet

France-Belgium-Canada| 2003. Colour. Dolby digital stereo. 78 mins.

If there’s any justice in the world, director Sylvain Chomet will be handed the Best Animated Feature Oscar in February for this fantastic little film. It follows none of the rules and forges an all new narrative and visual style that’s so winning it lingers in the mind long after the credits roll (and stay to the end for a delightful punch-line). The story centres on the diminutive Madame Souza, living alone with her chubby grandson who she tries to interest with all sorts of hobbies. She even buys him a faithful dog, Bruno, who becomes the perspective through whom we see the story. Eventually the boy develops a passion for bicycling, and becomes a tall, lean champion training for the Tour de France. But while racing he’s kidnapped by a sinister Mafioso and taken to the big city of Belleville, where Madame Souza and Bruno try to rescue him with the help of three has-been hags, triplets who used to be famous vaudeville singers.
With hardly any dialogue, the film doesn’t need subtitles or translation as it works perfectly to tell a story about love, loyalty and obsession. The stroke of brilliance is to put Bruno the dog at the centre, because she (yes, she) is so completely and utterly endearing. Meanwhile, the boy’s zombie-like existence is more than a little disturbing, as is Madame Souza’s ruthless inventiveness, the way the Mafioso and his henchmen merge into one, and the triplets’ diet of frogs. The film is jammed with little touches that are hysterically funny, moving and surprisingly telling too. It’s reminiscent of Jeunet & Caro (Delicatessen) and Wallace & Gromit. The askew visual sense owes a debt to the style of political caricature, while a jazzy musical score keeps our toes tapping. Fantastic.-

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