During the Tour De France, ace cyclist Champion is kidnapped by the Mafia and taken to the megalopolis of Belleville. Mme. Souza, Champion's doting grandmother, mounts a daring rescue mission, aided by three ageing music hall stars.
While it does not feature any sex or violence, Belleville Rendez-Vous is animation solely for adults. Shot through with sadness and satire, nostalgia and complexity, French animator Chomet's first full-length feature mixes a cracking, comedic (practically dialogue-free) adventure yarn with a hymn for times lost into something unique and cherishable.
From the opening musical number, Chomet throws in terrific set-pieces (Mme. Souza chasing an ocean liner on a pedalo, a last reel getaway that would put Hollywood to shame), subtle cultural commentary (Belleville is a thinly-disguised America), great supporting characters (the sad-faced cyclists, the hulking mobsters), and, best of all, an emotionally resonant core.
A Portuguese old dear with a clubfoot, Mme. Souza is the most unlikely cartoon hero for decades, but her implacable, resourceful spirit and indomitable desire to protect her grandson is enormously winning.
It occasionally suffers from longeurs, but it's moving and funny with moments of genius. More of the same, s'il vous plaît.