The Triplets of Belleville

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The Triplets of Belleville
Triplets of Belleville-Poster.jpg
French release poster
Directed by Sylvain Chomet
Produced by Didier Brunner
Paul Cadieux
Regis Ghezelbash
Colin Rose
Viviane Vanfleteren
Written by Sylvain Chomet
Starring Béatrice Bonifassi
Lina Boudreault
Music by Benoît Charest
Editing by Dominique Brune
Chantal Colibert Brunner
Dominique Lefever
Studio Les Armateurs
Production Champion
Vivi Film
France 3 Cinéma
RG Prince Films
With the participation of: Canal+, Sofica Gimages 3, Cofimage 12, Telefilm Canada, SODEC, Charente, Région Poitou-Charentes
With the support of: CNC, Fonds Film in Vlaanderen, Nationale Loterij of Belgium
In association with: BBC Bristol, BBC Worldwide
Distributed by Diaphana Films (France)
Sony Pictures Classics (US)
Tartan Films (UK)
Release dates
  • 11 June 2003 (2003-06-11) (France)
  • 25 June 2003 (2003-06-25) (Belgium)
  • 29 August 2003 (2003-08-29) (United Kingdom)
  • 7 November 2003 (2003-11-07) (Canada)
  • 26 November 2003 (2003-11-26) (United States)
Running time 78 minutes
Country France
United Kingdom
Language French
Budget $8 million[1]
Box office $14,776,760[2]

The Triplets of Belleville (French: Les Triplettes de Belleville) is a 2003 animated comedy film written and directed by Sylvain Chomet. It was released as Belleville Rendez-vous in the United Kingdom. The film is Chomet's first feature film and was an international co-production among companies in France, the United Kingdom, Belgium, and Canada.

The film features the voices of Michèle Caucheteux, Jean-Claude Donda, Michel Robin, and Monica Viegas; there is little dialogue, the majority of the film story being told through song and pantomime. It tells the story of Madame Souza, an elderly woman who goes on a quest to rescue her grandson Champion, a Tour de France cyclist, who has been kidnapped by the French mafia for gambling purposes and taken to the city of Belleville. She is joined by the Triplets of Belleville, music hall singers from the 1930s, whom she meets in the city, and her obese hound, Bruno.

The film was highly praised by audiences and critics for its unique style of animation. The film was nominated for two Academy AwardsBest Animated Feature and Best Original Song for "Belleville Rendez-vous". It was also screened out of competition (hors concours) at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival.[3]


The story focuses on Madame Souza, an elderly woman raising her young grandson, Champion. Souza notices her grandson is sad and lonely, hinted as due to the loss of his parents, so she first tries to get him interested in the piano. When this fails, she buys him a puppy named Bruno to cheer him up. Although he is initially happy, he quickly becomes melancholy once again. After discovering that Champion has a keen interest in road bicycle racing, because it is implied that Champion's deceased parents were bicyclists, she buys him a tricycle. Years later, Champion becomes a professional cyclist with Souza as his coach.

Eventually, Champion enters the Tour de France but during the race, he and two other riders are kidnapped by two French mafia henchmen and brought to the bustling metropolis of Belleville.

Souza and Bruno follow the men, but lose their trail soon after reaching the city. Lost and with no way to find Champion, Souza has a chance encounter with the renowned Belleville triplets, music hall singers from the 1930s, now elderly women turned improvisational musicians. The sisters take Souza to their home and over time she becomes a part of their group. Meanwhile, the mafia boss drugs the kidnapped cyclists and employs a mechanic to build a stationary cycling machine for the racers to race on — to create their own mini Tour de France for gambling.

At a fancy restaurant, the Triplets and Souza perform a jam session using a newspaper, refrigerator, vacuum and bicycle wheel as instruments. The mafia boss who kidnapped her grandson happens to be in the same restaurant and, with the help of Bruno, Souza realizes he has Champion. She tails one of the Mafia's minions the next day and discovers their scheme. That night, several mob bosses and their henchmen arrive at the mafia hideout and place bets on the riders (one of whom falls off his bicycle from exhaustion, at which point the bookmaker shoots him as one would an injured horse). Madame Souza, Bruno and the triplets then infiltrate the hideout and sabotage the contraption, unbolting it from the ground and turning it into a pedal-powered vehicle on which they all escape. The mob henchmen pursue them, but are all thwarted amidst the chase. The film ends with the motley group riding on out of Belleville, and a flashforward to an elderly Champion reflecting on the adventure, as told to him by the then deceased Souza.


There are references to the French director Jacques Tati's films Jour de Fête and Monsieur Hulot's Holiday.

Citroën vehicles influenced the design of the vehicles in the film: the mobsters' getaway cars are stretched versions of the Citroën 2CV, and the vehicle that Madame Souza uses whilst her grandson is in the Tour de France is a Citroën HY van. She has a near accident with a Citroën DS while training Champion in the beginning of the film.

The film's music is inspired by that of the 1920s, and includes characters reminiscent of Josephine Baker, Fred Astaire, Hoagy Carmichael, Glenn Gould and a Django Reinhardt-like character who plays along to the dancing Triplettes as Charles Trenet conducts the band. Some have suggested that the Triplets may have been modeled after the Andrews Sisters.[4] Johann Sebastian Bach's "Prelude No. 2" from The Well-Tempered Clavier (Book 1), is featured during the bicycle scene (played by Gould), and continues to recur in various styles throughout the movie.

In the liner notes of the soundtrack CD, Benoît Charest indicated that his music ideas stemmed from his desire to see if he could make a song using a refrigerator, a vacuum cleaner, and a piece of paper.


The Triplets of Belleville received strong positive reviews from critics; it currently holds a 94% 'fresh' rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with the consensus stating "Richly detailed and loaded with surreal touches, The Triplets of Belleville is an odd, delightful charmer," and a 91 on Metacritic, indicating "Universal acclaim".[5]


The film was nominated for two Academy Awards: for Best Animated Feature, making it the first PG-13 animated film to be nominated in that category; and for Best Original Song (Benoît Charest and Sylvain Chomet for the song "Belleville Rendez-vous", sung by Matthieu Chedid in the original version). The film lost the Best Animated Feature award to Finding Nemo. It also has won the César for Best Film Music, and as a co-production with Canada it won the Genie Award for Best Motion Picture and the BBC Four World Cinema Award in 2004.

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