Thursday, 8 February 2018

Review: Belleville Rendez-Vous (2003) by Sylvain Chomet (France)

Figure 1: Belleville Rendez-Vous (2003)
Belleville Rendez-Vous is an animated French feature film made in 2003 by Sylvain Chomet. The film follows an elderly grandma caring for her young grandson after the hinted absence of his parents. Noticing that he is lonely and alone, she tries to cheer him up by showing him the Piano, but when that fails she buys him a puppy. This appears to make him happy for a short while, but quickly descends back into his melancholy mood. After discovering that her grandson has an interest in cycling, she buys him a tricycle, later developing into him becoming a professional cyclist, eventually leading to him entering the Tour De France. Later, he gets kidnapped by the French Mafia, and we follow his grandma trying to get him back. 

''To call it weird would be a cowardly evasion. It is creepy, eccentric, eerie, flaky, freaky, funky, grotesque, inscrutable, kinky, kooky, magical, oddball, spooky, uncanny, uncouth and unearthly. Especially uncouth.'' (Ebert, 2003). Early on in the film, the bike is instantly romanticized as a way of escape from the lower class life in rural France and furthermore a relief from the feeling of loss and memory. The plot of the film is about bringing family together, and the bike does just that, the bike is a storytelling device throughout the entire film. The presentation of the crooked house next to the railroad also connotes its own meaning, this being the symbol of progression, whilst also symbolizing the repetitive going around in circles and not getting anywhere.

Figure 2: Belleville Rendez-Vous (2003)

Sylvain Chomet was born in in Yvelines, Paris, before he moved to London in 1988 to begin his career as an animator at the Richard Purdum Studios. Alongside his animation career, he created print comics such as Secrets of the Dragonfly (1986) and he wrote the script for The Bridge in Mud (1992).  Chomet's first animated film was called The Old Lady and the Pigeons (1996) which later went on to win a BAFTA and also received an Oscar nomination. Following this, he created Belleville Rendez-Vous which is his first feature-length animated film and went on the receive two Oscar nominations for 'Best Animated Feature' and 'Best Song' and the film expanded Chomet's name to a much wider audience. After this, he went on to make The Illusionist (2010) which premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival.

The film is animated, and the character design within the film is extremely exaggerated. We are presented with the club footed grandma, who wear one shoe higher than the other, and the muscly, thin, almost grotesque design of the son, Champion. The style of animation creates a grotesque world of corruption, cruelty and selfishness but ''it's not serious about this world and it doesn't want to attack it or improve upon it. It simply wants to sweep us up in its dark comic vision.'' (Ebert, 2003). The characters are lanky and caricature, along with the environment, with the boat towering above the sea level and the buildings within Belleville both towering above and intertwining with each other. 

Figure 3: Belleville Rendez-Vous (2003)

After release the film was flooded with praise and good reviews. It received 91% on Rotten Tomatoes and A. O. Scott at the New York times said ''it is likely that before too long, bits and pieces of ''The Triplets'' will find their way into the cartoon lexicon. Best to see this curious and captivating film now, before some of its vivid strangeness fades into familiarity'' (Scott, 2003). The film recieved two Academy Award nominations, which made it the first PG-13 feature-length animated film to be nominated for the 'Best Animated Feature' category. Unfortunately, the film lost the award to Finding Nemo. 


Ebert, R. (2018). The Triplets of Belleville Movie Review (2003) | Roger Ebert. [online] Available at: [Accessed 8 Feb. 2018].
Lee, C. (2018). Cycling Cinema: a review of 'Belleville Rendez-vous' - Ride25. [online] Ride25. Available at: [Accessed 8 Feb. 2018].
Scott, A. (2018). Movie Review - - FILM REVIEW; Nostalgia For a Land That Twirls In Dreams - [online] Available at: [Accessed 8 Feb. 2018].

ILLUSTRATIONS: (2018). Sisterhood with a Capital “S”: ‘The Triplets of Belleville’ | Bitch Flicks. [online] Available at: [Accessed 8 Feb. 2018].
Thomas, W. (2018). Belleville Rendez-Vous. [online] Empire. Available at: [Accessed 8 Feb. 2018].
Wadsworth, J. (2018). Belleville Rendez-vous. [online] Silent Frame. Available at: [Accessed 8 Feb. 2018].