a seemingly random journey through cinema's heart of darkness. so to speak.

Saturday, February 07, 2004

/The Triplets of Belleville/ (2003, Sylvain Chomet) Grade: B

Second time around; still don't "get" either side. I am still pretty goddam impressed, though, and I think that's the most accurate wording for my reaction.*

So, in the spirit of Pauline Kael's early-day swipes at Bowsley Crowther, here's what (the smart) Sam Adams had to say in the City Paper:

"Triplets plays like a 78-minute demo reel, a self-conscious display of technique applied to a story that’s more silly than fanciful. The characters -- obese women and stringy, fragile-looking men -- only exist as graphics; it’s not the lack of dialogue (there’s virtually none) so much as the fact that Chomet will twist the movie in any direction as long as it provides an opportunity to draw something interesting. They can’t even hold their creators’ interest: The movie wanders so much...it’s hard to tell what’s digression and what’s plot. The film can’t even properly be called episodic, since the diversions are purely scenic."**

All of which is, of course, exactly what makes it so singular. Though it has its ragged parts, Chomet's pulled off what I think is one of the first successful stream-of-consciousness features -- it feels like it was written in one go, if not animated from front to end. Thus, it's both plot and digression -- even the long stretches where grandma is trying to figure out what hobby will hold the kid's interests or hanging out with les triplettes de belleville are part of the throughline. Not to mention the most general thing: Chomet's animation is so arresting as to hold up on its own. Basically, the whole movie's like this: those legs! those limp frogs! those enormous teeth! (Like skyscrapers they were from my second row seat, those teeth!) That it wraps up as a paean to grandmothers is, admittedly, slight as all kinds of slight things, and that's indeed the problem. But chooglin' along with it rectifies that -- just trying to see where it's going, or imagining what's up with these gangster drones with nic fits and rectangular backs kidnapping bikers (for what? for gambling purposes? which is worth sending your entire legion of hoods to their doom?), or the almost Leone-ish way he lets you watch the triplets refuse to allow grandma to touch their fridge and newspaper without letting you know why till five minutes later. (Then again, they need to be pristine for their act?) Journey over destination is the case -- and I don't even like "trip" movies.

Oh, and the fat guy wearing a shirt that reads "I [Love in Shape Form] Fat"? Is that a tip off to one of Chomet's biggest (pun half-intended) interests? This guy loves drawing fat people -- foreground, background, unacknowledged cameo, whatever.

Two Youngish Women Having an "Open Umbrella Fight" in Front of a Guy, Also Youngish, 10:15pm-ish

"Look at me! I'm whimsical! Fuck me!" Eugh. Where's Janeane Garafolo when you need her?

*J-Ro, what is wrong with profanity? If you chide me one more time for letting loose a string of "fuck"s and "dick"s, I promise to stab your hand with a fork.

** Sorry I didn't indent it like a proper massive quote. I don't know these things.


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