Somewhere between elementary school and high school cartoons become infinitely less cool. From first through sixth grade there was nothing more entertaining than sitting down and watching a few hours of cartoons, pretending you could run off cliffs and just keep going as long as you never looked down, or lead an entire troop of babies on a high stakes adventure to rescue a lost blanket. Once I hit middle school all my cartoon watching became top secret. I never stopped watching, I just made sure no one else saw me watching Disney Channel in the middle of the afternoon.
All until I found the The Triplets of Belleville. This has been the first cartoon that I have ever felt entirely grown up watching. The graphics are a stunning highly stylized depiction of a retro South France, filled with cabaret dancers and a slightly dark underworld of the mafia. Sounds like a lot for a little film but the world they create is so rich you don’t even realize that you aren’t actually watching real people.
The whole story revolves around a little grandmother, Souza, and her grandson, Champion. What quickly seems like a simple life for the two of them, Champion training for the Tour De France and Souza helping him every step of the way, literally on to the race course, quickly leads to a dark underbelly of Mob gambling and seedy jazz clubs. When Champion is kidnapped mid-race and taken away to ride on a stationary bike for people to bet on, Souza sets out to rescue her grandson, obese dog in tow. It is her strength and determination, mixed with the antics of the “Triplets of Belleville,” three elderly women who used to be the hottest jazz act in town, that bring the movie through.
Most interesting to me, is watching the whole film develop with only a few sentences of dialogue. Sylvain Chomet, the director and writer, said he was inspired by the idea of creating music with just a vacuum, newspaper and refrigerator. These sounds run through the whole movie, each character getting their own unique set of noises and songs that convey all their emotions and quirks without ever having to break into speech.
From the first frame to the last the Triplets of Belleville will have you captivated with its imagery, noises, and captivating world, enough so that you might just forget that it’s no longer cool to watch cartoons.
Bio: Alex Smith is an intern at Guernica. Read her last recommendation “here”:https://www.guernicamag.com/blog/1341/staff_pick_alex_smith/.