One of the more surprising critical hits of 2003, Sylvain Chomet's Belleville Rendezvous is a French animation that combines occasional beauty and charm with sardonic grotesquerie. People have commented about its bitchy portrait of a USA where everyone is overweight and over-helpful; it is equally nasty about a provincial France, where everything is grey and nothing is convenient. A grandmother and her dog set out to rescue a cyclist who has been kidnapped by the French Mafia and is forced to race endlessly into a receding projected landscape; she is helped by a superannuated trio of female close-harmony chansonniers marooned in American poverty.
Nothing in this film is mere chance--almost everything we see turns out to be relevant. There is also little dialogue--most of the time, sound effects and music take its place, from the irritating squeak of a mechanic's breathing to the sublimity of Mozart's "Kyrie" as a storm rages at sea. Belleville Rendezvous uses the best of traditional animation techniques and modern technology to produce something sharply funny and beautifully composed; it is not quite like anything you have seen before.