Le Tour de France...


    ...avec Les Triplettes!    





July 14th, Bastille Day, earlier this week, celebrated the storming of the prison in 1789 by French revolutionaries and has come to symbolize the French values of Liberté, Egalité, and Fraternité.  The Tour de France, that ineffably Gallic tradition that some have called the most grueling sports event in the world, also continues this month (but of course, it is far more than a Gallic tradition -- in France it's no mere race, c'est la guerre! -- that has been dominated by the American Lance Armstrong who is attempting a remarkable 8th win this year).  So while the peloton snakes around France, there is no more appropriate film to watch than the wonderfully fun and whackily sophisticated 2003 animated film  Les Triplettes de Belleville -- created by Sylvain Chomet and that delights in all things French.


When her cyclist son Champion is kidnapped by gangsters during the Tour de France -- an absurd premise to begin with -- the elderly Madame Souza enlists the help of her fat dog Bruno and the Triplette sisters, old crones in cloches who once sang in Belleville music halls.  Chomet spares no one with his farcical touch and the film includes some good-natured ribbing at the expense of American culture -- his fictional Belleville, a surreal version of 1930's-19450's Manhattan, is inhabited by ogre-like creatures who consume hamburgers with unrestrained relish.  Chomet displays a loving nostalgia for French national obsessions -- music-hall songs, cycling, food -- and his aesthetic style is uniquely idiosyncratic.  The New York Times said of the film: "Mr. Chomet's is a universe of sheer impossibility, where size, proportion and balance are ruled by the whims of his perverse pen and peculiar imagination."  


It is Chomet's own surreal, stylized world, there are no strangely androgynous humans dashing about as in Japanese animé or cutesy woodland creatures à la Walt Disney.  Chomet's somewhat absurd pastiche sometimes skims but never descends into the truly grotesque.  And  much of the film's delight lies in the many astute aesthetic references to everything from Jacques Tati films to Citroën cars, as well as parodies of Charles De Gaulle and Josephine Baker.  


The film has virtually no dialogue, but the deliriously silly central song, Belleville Rendezvous, will leave you smiling long after the film is over….


See: Les Triplettes de Belleville

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Lance Armstrong after his 7th Tour de France win






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