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.
Released: 26 January 2004
Via three brief scene-specific commentaries, a ‘making of’ (15 mins.), a set of interviews (33 mins.) and an animation lesson (5 mins.), Chomet gives us a good sense of the entire process, particularly how to make computer animation look like 2-D.
Plus an interview with the main background artist and a music video with its own ‘making of’.
It occasionally suffers from longeurs, but it's moving and funny with moments of genius. More of the same, s'il vous plaît.