If you have so much as a passing interest in animation, then to see the gangsters is to love the gangsters. They come in a big symmetrical block a cuddly old mob boss flanked by two identical thugs who do everything from walk to light a cigarette in total synchronization. These little chunks of eye candy have been floating around in my head for the past few days thanks to a film called the Triplets of Belleville a movie that will fill anyone that remotely enjoys animation with elation, and anyone who doesn't with a sort of revulsion usually saved for Hitler and Michael Jackson.
The story (of sorts) concerns a professional cyclist raised by his grandmother. One day the man is kidnapped by the above gangsters, wishing to recruit him for their gambling operation. So who else would grandma and her morbidly obese dog call to the rescue but elderly music hall stars? Really though, this story is the barest of skeleton for Belleville’s animation to hang on. This is a movie filled with beautiful sights: A waiter who seems to have no bones at all, a frog who takes a dynamite blast and keeps on ticking, musical instruments made from a fridge, an old Hoover, a newspaper, and an old bike wheel (the music seeming more like the sound of witches casting a spell then anything we're accustomed to hearing). Even the city's populace grotesquely funny, filled with caricatures of Americans who wear shirts that read "I luv big" and bodies that live up to the claim. Then there's the city itself, a place where the modern age and the twenties fight it out for decorating supremacy.
Belleville’s style is amazing, eschewing the warmth of both Japanese and American animation, while at the same time ignoring the traditional coldness and uniformity of European animation. It’s literally unlike anything I've ever seen, although if I had to give it a label I'd say it is the old hippie cousin of early Chuck Jones, who now sees everything through a permanent acid flashback.
I'm at a loss of words here, no one can tell you about this particular matrix you just have to see it for yourselves. You may love it, you may hate it, but you’ve never seen anything like it.
In my review of Tokyo Godfathers I told non anime fans to watch the film and give it a chance. I'm giving the exact opposite advice here. If you do not like animation stay the hell away. After the screening it was easy to tell the difference between the fans, and those who had been dragged their by the fans. The fans had a pleasant look, as though they had just woken from a beautifully surreal dream and been allowed to carry a few images back to earth. The non fans looked as though they had been shown a Guatemalan snuff film featuring the murder and rape of several women and children. You know where you fit in, so stay away, fair warning. For my fellow fans out there, pleasant dreams.