Belleville Rendez-Vous

Darkly bizarre Gallic cartoon is sophisticated delight

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Endlessly inventive, stunningly rendered and deliciously dark and twisted, this French/Canadian/Belgian animation is probably the most rewarding experience you’ll have in a cinema all year. Forget the usual preconceptions of cartoons as kiddy-oriented brain-fudge-the macabre sophistication of this remarkable film is pitched well above the head of the average pre-teen.

Central to the film is Madame Souza, an indomitable little old Portuguese woman. She is grandmother to Champion, an aspiring Tour De France cyclist with massively distorted thighs and a body sculpted by years spent crouched, mantis-like, over a racing cycle. When Champion is abducted during the race, Madame Souza and Bruno, her chronically obese dog, set out to rescue him. The search takes her to the city of Belleville?New York re-imagined as a French-speaking metropolis?where she meets the Triplets of Belleville, a former music hall trio from the 1930s.

Part celebration, part parody of all things Gallic, the film manages to cram more bizarre and hilarious ideas into its all-too-brief running time than most pictures twice its length. And on the evidence of this wonderful little movie, director Sylvain Chomet clearly possesses a cinematic voice as distinctive and idiosyncratically French as that of Jeunet and Caro.


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