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Belleville Rendezvous!!

I took my 12-year-old brother Bertie to see The Triplets of Belleville today. So far, the Curtin family opinion is (unanimously) that you should find it, see it, stay through the end of the credits! It’s a madcap mixture of George Booth and Quentin Blake and Jacques Tati and a million other things with a complex visual vocabulary and spectacular music and sounds. I have a strong pro-verbal bias, and this was a movie with almost no dialogue, and yet I don’t think words could have improved it. Instead it worked fully within a language of images. Well, not fully; I had a great time watching the posters and street signs and graffiti. My favorite writing was what amounts to URINATION PROHIBITED on the wall of what I think was someone’s house.

It benefited greatly from a willingness to be a bit loose with visual styles, bringing things into focus as they become important to the story and letting them slide to the background (or foreground) when not needed. What impressed me most was a consistent editing touch that would splice simultaneous scenes together, crosscutting. When one door opened, you’d see what was behind a different door, and yet this wasn’t confusing. Triplets is just a movie that depends heavily on parallels, on multiple converging stories, on the choices people make to bind themselves to each other. I’ll have more to say later on how this relates to my pet theme, but I’m too tired now for analysis. I’m too tired for anything but polemical cheerleading - see this movie! It’s fun! Take an interested kid!

In fact, that last point is an important one. We both enjoyed the movie, and I was proud of Bertie’s level of analytical sophistication. He appreciated parallel structure in the beginning and end of the story and was quite excited about this. He laughed that a puppy who had a runin with a toy train would become a dog who barks at commuter trains. Most importantly, and setting this apart from previous film excursions, he didn’t need anything explained to him in the course of the story. Perhaps my constant exhortations that if you don’t ask who the person entering the room is but listen instead to see if it becomes clear have gotten through. Well, I also quietly translated some of the written French at the beginning to make sure he was following. At any rate, it gave us plenty to talk about and he’s already (well, was already, before his bedtime) bragging about how he’ll be able to tell all his friends tomorrow that he saw a movie that has “only one line of dialogue!” My littlest brother’s growing up, and it’s good to feel I’m doing something right in gently guiding him. Ah, the cleverness of me!


  1. Steven says:

    “…the posters and street signs and graffiti.”

    Ah, but those are images too, blurring the line between pictorial and verbal imagery.

    — 11 February 2004 at 4:24 am (Permalink)