Premise: Film Screening | Belleville Rendez-Vous [4]

Film Review [4] | 'Belleville Rendez-Vous'
Fig. 1
This weeks premise had us stepping into the realm of French cinema, with Sylvain Chomet's rich, and characterful 'Belleville Rendez-Vous' (2003).
While detailed and unique in it's visual design, its conceptual world is uncouth, and unapologetic to its nature (seeming to not care, like "most animated features [which] have an almost grotesque desire to be loves"). While not showing an explicit content, it's mainly argued as a film "solely for adults" (Thomas, 2003). 
Chomet, however, sees his films as there for all audiences, including young children. His argument is that we should "stop being so over-protective of children. If we want them to become tolerant and non-violent we have to show them lots of different things, and above all, not only stories that have happy endings" (Chomet, 2003). 

At it's heart, 'Belleville Rendez-Vous' is a espionage film; a crime plot in and amongst a wide array of weird and wacky characters. The story follows the kidnapping of 'Champion', a skinny, persistent and quiet cyclist, who dreams to participate in the 'Tour De France'.
His grandma, a short and practical/stern squat lady- is his coach. Whistle poised in mouth, and marching alongside to support him in his training.
After being abducted by the French mafia and taken "across the Atlantic to the city of Belleville" (Dawson, 2003), a fictitious city that draws heavily from American and Canadian cities New York, Quebec and Montreal... it's down to his grandma, with Champion's chubby and elderly dog Bruno, and the aid of the elderly Triplets of Belleville, (once famed by their presence in the American music hall industry, with American dancer, Fred Astaire), to save Champion.

The film explores a nostalgically satirical and "often playfully macabre" (Dawson, 2003) world with some degree of relatability, particularly those living in France as it adopts solely from its national identity, in both style and reference.
There are multiple times 'Belleville Rendez-Vous' changes the style of animation to indicate the time period (taking from France's individual animation tradition/history, that dates back as far back as the 1950's). The film starts with early, Hollywood animation, with its fluidity, laxness in anatomy and sense of humour (as seen in Fig.3). It then inhabits French director Chomet's own style, in Fig. 2, which references from"...contemporary French comic strips" (Molns, 2003).
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
The subject matter (the tour de france), reliance upon country stereotypes -note Fig. 4's take on a archetypical French waiter-, French animator/director Chomet's own personal style and imagination; "the unconvential use of hand grenades to catch frogs" (2003, Dawson), makes for an incredibly unconventional text.

Fig. 4

For Sylvain Chomet, 'Belleville Rendez-Vous' was his first full-length feature film, after his previous experience making "The Old Lady and the Pigeons" (1997); an animation short.
He has a great, consistent presence within the film, having a deep level of experience in the craft- and working "at all levels within it" 1, instead of other European industrial studios, who "often sub-contracted [the animation] out to South Korea or China" 1,at the time of it's production. 
Chomet states that "it is very important to be there, at the heart of the team... totally involved in the physical production" 1 for 'Belleville Rendez-Vous'. He claims "you have a style, a technique, but it is an art and you express yourself through that art" (1 Molns and Chomet, 2003).

The film has barely any talking, instead relying on character and pure visual animation to tell the story (similar to the medium of silent-film). For Chomet " animation without the constraints of spoken words is stronger. If you have to fit everything to the words, all the gestural movement revolves around the mouth. Without it, you are much freer to create true animation..." (Molns and Chomet, 2003).

While there's limited information to the creation process, there are comments here and there, that confirm a mixture between hand-drawn animation and computer-animation. Chomet's interview with 'Animation World' has him claim "...what we've done in my film was sometimes treated in 3D underneath" (Molns and Chomet, 2003), while the article by 'TIME' states "for Triplets, [the director], did use computer animation for the film's cars, boats and trains". 
That being said, there's a definite emphasis on hand-drawn to computer animation. 
The 'Making Of' behind the scenes for the film, shows the traditional flip-book animation, before being tested, and played back through at the correct speed on the computer (later projects such as 'The Simpsons Couch Gag' shows them use a line test/pencil test; they photograph each frame in sequence and play it back to get the full movement. These are refined, to foreground and background, and are digitally coloured- this was once done traditionally). The final rendered sequences are put together on separate layers within a scene, before applying sound, and music etc.

For Chomet, there's an uncertainty towards the 3D process, in terms of handling the material, compared to a 'drawing' context:
"...I draw, and its drawing that interests me. 3D terrifies of your characters might melt, or that you might have to start all over again from scratch because you've knocked against the edge of the table, that's not for me. If I don't like a drawing, I simply tear it up and start again" 2.
He claims what he's really interest in is caricature; particularly "how far you can push it, seeing if you can achieve something really strong, almost abstract" (2 Molns and Chomet, 2003).

In terms of the studio, he felt it was "very important to be there, at the heart of the team, its that companionship element I mentioned earlier" 3. Particularly a team who "have a sensibility, a culture and have also acquired all the techniques contributed by the Anglo-Saxons" (3 Molns and Chomet, 2003).
While Individuals worked better at on specific characters each (putting themselves in their shoes, and acting out the actions), it's also important to collaborate together as a whole under the overarching style, and instructions of Chomet. 
Though the team dispersed after the project was complete (he claims there are hardy "enough permanent studios), it's possible to "create networks of studios like there were in London in the 70's and 80's. which worked pretty well. People were very united and often worked together on particular projects" 4. True the two studios that helped in the production of 'Belleville Rendez-Vous' have since closed down, there are studios out there who hold to this former framework: "That's why I really admire a setup like Folimage; they have really understood this" (4 Molns and Chomet, 2003).

In terms of reception, Chomet recalls during an interview, the response from the film at Cannes and Annecy; " was just absolutely crazy. The film has already notched up one of the highest foreign sales scores for a recent French production. Before Cannes, 25 countries had already acquired the film; its now [2003] 37, including the U.S., which was initially quite wary, as usual" 5.
He claims that while there are many people who appreciate his work, there's always the fear that some parts may be cut out of the film (particularly in America, wherein "the people in charge at the big companies are rather more censorious" (5 Molns and Chomet, 2003).
In the following 2 years 'Belleville Rendez-Vous' received numerous awards, including the 'New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Animated Film', 'Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Music', 'Boston Society of Film Critics Award for Best Foreign Language Film', 'Seattle Film Critics Award for Best Animated Feature', and so forth. It was also nominated for 2 Oscars,  38 nominations and 19 wins. 

'Lachambreverte', (2017), 'The Making of The Triplets of Belleville (2003)', [Online Video]. Available at: [Accessed Date: 08/02/2018]
'th1ng & th2ng'. (2014), 'th1ng - Sylvain Chomet's making of 'The Simpsons couch gag', [Online Video]. Available at: [Accessed Date: 08/02/2018]
Fig. 1 'Belleville Rendez-Vous', (2003), [Film Still]. Available at: [Accessed Date: 08/02/2018]
Fig. 2 'Belleville Rendez-Vous', (2003), [Film Still]. Available at: [Accessed Date: 08/02/2018]
Fig. 3 'Belleville Rendez-Vous', (2003), [Film Still]. Available at: [Accessed Date: 08/02/2018] 
Fig. 4 'Belleville Rendez-Vous', (2003), [Film Still]. Available at: [Accessed Date: 080/02/2018]
Dawson, Tom (2003), 'Belleville Rendez-Vous (2003)', [Online]. Available at: [Accessed Date: 08/02/2018]
Ebert, Roger (2003), 'The Triplets of Belleville', [Online]. Available at: [Accessed Date: 08/02/2018]
Molns, Phillippe (2003), 'Sylvain Chomet's 'The Triplets of Belleville', [Online]. Available at: [Accessed Date: 08/02/2018]
Nesselson, Lisa (2003), 'Film Review: "Belleville Rendez-Vous"', [Online]. Available at: [Accessed Date: 08/02/2018]
Thomas, William (2000), 'Belleville Rendez-Vous Review', [Online]. Available at: [Accessed Date: 08/02/2018]


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