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The Triplets of Belleville ( ) is a Belgium-Quebec-France coproduced 2003 animated feature film written and directed by Sylvain Chomet. It was released as Belleville Rendez-vous in the United Kingdommarker. The film is Chomet's first feature film and was an international co-production between companies in France, United Kingdom, Belgium and Canada.

The film features the voices of Michèle Caucheteux, Jean-Claude Donda, Michel Robin, and Monica Viegas; there is little dialogue, the majority of the film story being told through song and pantomime. It tells the story of Madame Souza, an elderly woman who goes on a quest to rescue her grandson Champion, who has been kidnapped by the French mafia and taken to the city of Belleville. She is joined by the triplets of Belleville, music hall singers from the 1930s, who she meets in the city, and her dog Bruno.

The film was highly praised by audiences and critics for its unique (and somewhat retro) style of animation. The film was nominated for two Academy Awards — Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song for "Belleville Rendez-vous". It was also screened out of competition at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival.

Plot

The story focuses on Madame Souza, an elderly woman raising her young grandson Champion. Souza notices her grandson is sad and lonely so she buys him a puppy named Bruno to cheer him up. Although initially happy he quickly becomes melancholy once again. After discovering that Champion has a keen interest in road bicycle racing, she buys him a tricycle. Years later, Champion has become a professional cyclist with Souza as his coach.

Eventually, Champion enters the Tour de France but during the race he and two other riders are kidnapped by two French mafia henchmen and brought to the bustling metropolis of Belleville. Souza along with Bruno follow the men but lose their trail soon after reaching Belleville. Lost in the city with no way to find Champion, Souza has a chance encounter with the renowned Belleville triplets, music hall singers from the 1930s, now elderly women turned improvisational musicians. The sisters take Souza in to stay with them and over time she becomes a part of their group. Meanwhile, the mafia boss has a mechanic build a stationary cycling machine for the kidnapped cyclists to race on to create their own mini Tour de France for gambling.

At a fancy restaurant the triplets plus Souza perform a jam session using a newspaper, refrigerator, vacuum and bicycle wheel. The mafia boss who kidnapped her grandson happens to be in the same restaurant, and, with the help of Bruno, Souza realizes he has Champion. She tails one of the mafia's minions and discovers the scheme. That night, several mafia bosses and their henchmen arrive at the mafia hideout and place bets on the riders. Madam Souza, Bruno and the triplets infiltrate the hideout and sabotage the contraption, unbolting it from the ground and turning it into a pedal-powered vehicle on which they all escape. The mob henchmen pursue them, but each of them are disposed by Souza and the triplets. The film ends with Souza, Champion, Bruno, the triplets riding on the vehicle out of Belleville.

Influences

There are references to the French director Jacques Tati's films Jour de Fête and Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot, whose combination of pantomime with sound effects was an influence on The Triplets of Belleville.

Citroën vehicles influenced the design of the vehicles in the film: the mobsters' getaway cars are stretched versions of the Citroën 2CV, and the vehicle that Madame Souza uses whilst her grandson is in the Tour de France is a Citroën HY van. She has a near accident with a Citroën DS while training Champion in the beginning of the movie.

The film's music is inspired by that of the 1920s, and includes characters reminiscent of Josephine Baker, Fred Astaire, Glenn Gould and a Django Reinhardt-like character who plays along to the dancing Triplettes as Charles Trenet conducts the band. Johann Sebastian Bach's Prelude No. 2 from The Well-Tempered Clavier (Book 1), is also featured during the bicycle scene (played by Glenn Gould).

In the liner notes of the soundtrack CD, Benoît Charest indicated that his music ideas stemmed from his desire to see if he could make a song using a refrigerator, a vacuum, and a piece of paper. These "instruments" in fact show up both in the film and on the soundtrack.

The film makes coy references to fundamental physics. For instance, the opening credits are set in a frame which contains the Einstein Field Equations, the basis of General Relativity, along the bottom of the picture.

The film also references the artist Robert Crumb. During Bruno's first dream sequence while he is riding the train he passes the window of the house. Inside the house stands a tall, lanky man wearing hat and glasses who closely resembles the famous artist.

Awards

The film was nominated for two Academy Awards for Best Animated Feature, making it the first PG-13 animated film to be nominated in that category, and Best Original Song (Benoît Charest and Sylvain Chomet for the song "Belleville Rendez-vous", sung by Matthieu Chedid in the original version). It also has won the César for Best Film Music, and as a co-production with Canadamarker it won the Genie Award for Best Motion Picture and the BBC Four World Cinema Award in 2004.

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