Eye For Film >> Movies >> Belleville Rendez-Vous (2002) Film Review
The distance between Lilo & Stitch and Belleville Rendez-Vous is the distance between life itself and a packet of cornflakes. Although both are animated features, one is a work of genius and the other a commercial venture.
Sylvian Chomet's debut is reminiscent of Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro's Delicatessen, which appeared out of a technicolour sky in 1990, untouched by convention, or cliche. Suddenly, black comedy, visual innovation, surreal humour and eccentricity returned to the cynical, if not jaded, craft of filmmaking.
Chomet's story of a determined, peg-legged, diminutive Portuguese granny, whose life is dedicated to the well-being of her dim, secretive grandson, from a leaning house beside a railway line in a French suburb around the time that Vincente Minnelli was shooting Gigi in Hollywood with Leslie Caron and Maurice Chevalier, is a patchwork of bizarre and unforgettable moments, many of which involve a fat dog called Bruno who barks at trains and an ageing trio of singing sisters who make music with domestic utensils.
The grandson grows up into a long distance cycle racer, whose thigh and calf muscles are so extended that he can't walk. Granny Souza has to massage him with a garden mower to keep his circulation going.
The plot dips and dives through elaborately drawn tunnels of invention to the city of Belleville, where organised crime and nostalgia for the music of the Thirties holds sway. Granny Souza, Bruno and the singing triplets make their stand against cloned gangsters who have kidnapped the bicycle boy for their own devious and deadly entertainment.
Everything about this film is a surprise. The animation harks back to the glory years of Richard Williams, when experimental work from Eastern Europe influenced Western cartoonists who had rejected the sentimentality of the American school.
There is no dialogue, for example, although memorable sound effects. During this period of social history, when spin and marketing dictates the viewing habits of a nation, Chomet walks in the shadow of Nick Park, despite their styles being completely different, and lays claim to the heartbeat of those who believe that normality is a tranquilliser, administered by enemies of the imagination.Reviewed on: 04 Sep 2003