This has been a really hard review to write. The problem is that 'Belleville Rendez-vouz' is one of those films that is really hard to do justice to in a description. The film itself largely abandons words in favour of animation and music. While this makes for a captivating viewing experience it also makes it very hard to write about.
The story follows Madame Souza's search for her kidnapped Grandson. Together with her dog Bruno she sets off to rescue him from the city of Belleville and along the way enlists the help of the aged former dancers known as les triplettes de Belleville. They cross the ocean and battle with mobsters on the way to rescuing the imprisoned Tour de France entrant. Their progress is mostly dialogue free with the story being told through the beautiful animation and score.
The 'look' of the film is in some ways quite hard to pin down. Characters and places are warped and exaggerated but always in a way that makes them seem almost more real than if they were drawn naturalistically. The overall effect is surreal, dreamlike and sometimes quite spectacular. There is a refreshingly dark edge to the caricatures of people and places that stops 'Belleville Rendez-vouz from ever descending into sentimentality. Highlights like the sea journey to Belleville itself and the fantastically sinister villain are simply stunning. The swelling waves and Mozart score simply look and sound fantastic which is the whole point of this film. When you add in the many tiny details such as Belleville's wine bottle shaped sky scrapers there is always something happening on screen to capture your attention. You hardly notice the lack of dialogue when the story is told so eloquently with pictures and music.
As an example of how to tell a story without dialogue (let alone an explanatory voice over) 'Belleville Rendez-vouz' would be impressive but it is also entertaining in its own right. To be sure the pace is sometimes slow but this is all part of the film's charm. By unfolding gradually the effect of the stunning animation is only enhanced.
In the end this film does what cinema does best: it's an impressive spectacle and one not limited by anything other than the artists imaginations. Purely as something different to most other films (certainly anything else I've seen recently) its well worth going to see.
Screenings of this film:
|2003/2004 Spring Term – (35mm)|