Triplettes of Belleville

Triplettes of Belleville is out in Seattle, please pardon me if I choose not to get the French title precisely right. “Triplettes” best asset is the way it takes advantage of the traditional medium to prove once again that animation is not restricted by the laws of physics or even common sense. In its way, its also refreshingly unconcerned with many of the laws of animation drilled into our American brains. That doesn’t mean “Triplettes” is an example of how all home-grown animation should be done. Appeal is nowhere to be found in the character designs; sometimes they’re fun, sometimes disturbing. And a number of sequences, especially the frog scenes, mingled with the heavy atmosphere of Seattle’s Egyption theatre and induced nausea. At least for both of us. But this sometimes playful, sometimes dreary film is a window into another world, unique and memorable.

“Triplettes” will be a contender for the Oscar this year, but passing over “Nemo” would be a slap in the face for Pixar that would be very undeserved. “Nemo” is an enormous achievement, and this needs to be Pixar’s year. My contention is that the choice of Shrek over Monster’s Inc was a Dreamworks over Disney decision, even an anti-Eisner decision. Choosing “Triplettes” over “Nemo,” a film with a limited audience that few in the States will really understand or even like, would be a misguided attempt to look intellectual. Or perhaps an example of Hollywood supporting France for political reasons. Whatever the case, “Nemo” is not only one of the best films of the year, but a milestone in technology, in box office numbers, and in animation history.

Which brings me to another milestone, the theatrical release of Destino. It was touching to once again see Roy Disney’s name in the credits of a project that would never have been finished otherwise. Walt Disney and Salvador Dali came together in the forties to produce a short during the time when Disney features were combinations of unrelated musical numbers. While watching Destino however, my thought was, “What were they thinking in the first place?” Destino is a mish mash of bizarre, surreal imagery. Well, yes, of course it is, it’s Salvador Dali isn’t it? But if I had ever bothered to ask myself, would I like to sit through a series of moving Dali paintings that tempts me with a story, yet never actually delivers one, set to a musical chorus right out of the Three Cabelleros, would I have said yes? When it was finished, I knew the answer for sure. One thing I can say about Destino: I’ve never tried LSD, and now I feel like I’ll never need to. Yet I don’t feel any better off for it. I’m expecting to see an Oscar nomination for it in the short category, and considering the lack of serious competition these days it might have a shot at winning.

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