Belleville Brings Down the House at Annecy

Director Sylvain Chomet’s animated feature Les Triplettes de Belleville

screened out of competition last night at the Annecy Int’l Festival of Animation in Annecy, France and proved to be the highlight of the festival thus far. The film received a standing ovation and Chomet was visibly overwhelmed by the enthusiastic response from the packed house.

Many viewers were also moved to tears by Belleville, a glorious achievement that tells the story of Champion, a competitive cyclist who is kidnapped by the French Mafia. His Aunt, Madame Souza, sets out to rescue him with the help of her overweight dog, Bruno, and a washed-up trio of music hall singers known as the Triplettes of Belleville. The film masterfully balances quiet moments with absurd humor and even tosses in some madcap comedy for good measure. The result is a picture that plays to all ages and nationalities.

Belleville also made a splash a couple weeks ago when it premiered out of

competition at the Cannes Film Festival, where it was quickly snatched up by Sony Pictures Classics for distribution in the U.S. It’s possible that Sony could slightly alter the film since the original version very thinly veils a depiction of Americans as fat and features brief shots of a plump Statue of Liberty clutching a hamburger and the famous Hollywood sign changed to read HollyFood. But Chomet also plays with French stereotypes, giving his hero an enormous nose and throwing in that failsafe staple of comic relief, the over-the-top French waiter.

Sony Pictures Classic plans to release the film this November, going head to head with other year-end holiday releases such as Disney’s Brother Bear and New Line’s third installment of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. This move will also qualify the film as one of the year’s contenders for the high-profile Animation Oscar race. According to the indie studio, the film’s U.S. title will be The Belleville Triplets, not Belleville Rendez-Vous as was initially planned.

The mostly 2D Belleville, which opens in France June 11, is obviously a

major source of pride for the French festival-goers at Annecy. Its inclusion has even overshadowed the premiere of France’s first entirely CG feature, Kaena, The Prophecy, directed by Chris Delaporte and Pascal Pinion and produced by Xilam, Studio Canal and Groupe TVA Inc. Kaena is one of five features included in the feature film competition. To read more about Belleville, check out the cover story in the March issue of Animation Magazine.