An animated film released in France in 2003 by director/writer Sylvain Chomet. Originally titled "Les Triplettes de Belleville," the story chronicles the life of Madame Souza, the tough but lovable Portuguese grandmother of the orphaned boy Champion, who discovers and encourages his love of bicycling. Beginning sometime after World War II in the outskirts of Paris, the story starts with a hilarious television broadcast of an old performance of the Triplets of Belleville, a 1920's jazz trio reminiscent of the Boswell Sisters. The story then jumps to the 1960's, where an adult Champion, ruthlessly trained by his grandmother, has entered the Tour de France and is kidnapped en route by mobsters. Madame Souza and her slow-moving dog, Bruno, travel across the ocean to Belleville (an odd hybrid city containing aspects of New York, Montreal, and Paris) in pursuit of her grandson's kidnappers. On arrival, they run into the aging Triplets, now elderly women living in the slums and making their income through avant-garde performances on devices not designed to make music. Together, they must confront the French Mafia in an attempt to rescue Champion.
Produced by a French/Belgian/Canadian consortium, the Triplets is a masterpiece of animation with practically no dialogue (sure to bore those with limited attention spans or who cannot understand subtle humor), but is more than compensated for by the sound effects, bizarre animation, musical score, historical references, political jabs, and multiple cameo "appearances" by the likes of Josephine Baker, Django Reinhardt, and Fred Astaire (who is killed and eaten by his own shoes!).
Although I avoid animated films for their schizoid animation and general lack of plot, I have recommended The Triplets of Belleville to many people as not only the best animated film I've ever watched, but one of my favorite films of all time.
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