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Written and directed by Sylvain Comet this whimsical adventure pulls you in and holds you tightly from distraction for the whole length of the film.

Madame Souza’s grandson is kidnapped during the tour de france, with the help of her trusty dog Bruno and the once famous Belleville triplets, they set of on a daring rescue mission against uncertain odds.

Belleville is parisian in style, but not structured to reality, the buildings, streets and everything in the city is just as caricatured as the characters, complete with impossibly steep banks, to insanely high rooftops and short stumpy stores. Everything is mixed up and out of proportion, it’s as if they city was modelled out of wet clay and before it dried somebody dropped it. The colour scheme also stands out, when it’s night, all the colour is suitably washed out, grey, dark and mercy looking, pale in comparison to the day time which turns the city golden. Strong yellows can be seen everywhere, makes for a nice contrast between day and night. The Tour de france scene where the kidnapping takes place, is as what you would expect. Vertical hills and suitably rocky. It’s quite a nice looking scene, it’s summer, so it’s full of yellow and red hues as well as plenty of brown.

The characters contained within Belleville are extreme exaggerations of people. Similar to caricatures found in political newspapers featuring politicians. Madame Souza is short and hobbit like, one leg is shorter than the other,which is made up to size with an oversized shoe. Her obvious physical limitations are overcome and don’t interfere with her resolve in getting her grandson back, you can’t help but admire her because of this, which is why the character was made this way. An un limey Hero that steps up to the challenge. Her Dog Bruno is not really of any use in the film at least to the characters, he’s more of a fixation for the audience, He’s certainly adorable, his huge bulging body supported by his matchstick legs are enough to make anyone love him. You see much of the film through Bruno’s eyes. Including the stand out dream sequences, Where Bruno seems to always be moving fast on some locomotive or other method of transport. Perhaps a connotation for a dogs love of sticking their heads out of car windows. You also have the gangsters who all look identical, like huge black rectangles with feet. They are stiff and rigid, maybe an implication of having no soul or heart. Madame Souza’s grandson is also quite disproportional. He’s a cyclist and like most cyclist they have defined calf muscles, but his are like tree trunks while there rest of him is skinny, his nose is long and at times, he resembles a race horse.

From an animation standpoint, there are breaks in the Inbetweening frames. So when the characters stop moving or doing something, there is sometimes a pause until the next action or movement, usually the body pauses while the eyes continue to move in order to appear as if nothing has stopped. This kind of animation is typical in a lot of animations such as in the studio Ghibli films. Which is opposite to disney who use realistic motion or as close to real life as possible. Most of the time, the motion like the design of the characters is caricatured, the french waiter is a good example of this, he’s very stringy and bendy as if made out of half cooked spaghetti.Which is totally opposite to the gangsters who move very wooden fashion as you would expect given their shape and size.

Research plays a heavy role in any animators job, but what makes things even more interesting is when that research is applied in a different way. It’s clear that the cyclists in the story are treated like prised race horses, not just in how they are captured but also in the way they move, gasp for air as well as their long faces. Instead of looking at how a human gasps for air, or moves, they looked at horses and applied that research to a human being, which created the unique style and look of the characters.

The film apart from sound effects and the score, is mostly silent, there isn’t any real dialogue, just the odd sigh and laugh here and there. This was perhaps a clever way to get over the language barrier and making the film more accessible to a world wide audience.

The film is what it is, I wouldn’t say it has many weaknesses apart from the style of animation might not be the taste of the average movie goer to seeing Shrek and toy story. This particular style of animation is more directed towards adults and a particular target audience, most likely art types, or people into animation as a passion. Strength wise, it’s never boring at any point and manages to maintain a steady pace. Visually spectacular and most of all, fun to watch…

 

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