Friday, July 20, 2007

Netflix Experiment #2: The Triplets of Belleville

by Ryland Walker Knight

I had forgotten what an intelligent delight this film is. Remarkable how one could forget in the first place, really, even while singing its praises for years on end. Maybe it's that I simply hadn't thought to watch it again. Maybe it's that its intelligence is deceptive. Maybe it's that I find it hard to come to grips with the fact that, well, animation is perhaps the most alive arena of filmmaking today. All one has to do is draw the son of a bitch: the screen is the animator's oyster. Films like this, and other recent examples I've written about, are proof enough for the merits of toons. (To say nothing of the Looney variety or other Japanese masterpieces, or even something like Mary Poppins.) But what about Triplets? This film demands more than a simple Netflix Experiment toss-off appreciation but, safe to say, it will pop up again, I think -- perhaps in a future double bill. One trope I will mention adoring is how handmade everything feels, throughout the film. And not just because it's hand-drawn cel animation. Take, for instance, the means the gangsters steal the cyclists for: reusable energy! How cool is that? Or, how the old Triplets use whatever means at their fingertips to make their music, be it a newspaper or an empty refrigerator or a vacuum cleaner. Plus, one could talk about how fun the camera is, and the symmetry of plot elements with the symmetry of character designs. One could invoke Tati in its absence of dialogue, which foregrounds the fun and funny visuals. It should be obvious I have barely hinted at the film's various pleasures. Simply put: one of the best films of its year, and the declining decade we inhabit. An example of the excellent imagination on display, exhibited by the film and by its eponymous heroines:

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