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The Triplets of Belleville

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Triplets of Belleville

Image credit: The Triplets of Belleville, 2003.

This week, I found the rare film that bridges the gap between my Mad Max-loving husband and myself.  By the time we finished The Triplets of Belleville (DVD/Download), we were both humming “Belleville Rendezvous”, and he enthusiastically admitted that this was the best French (mostly silent) cartoon he’s ever seen. Small pool, but I’ll take it!

Similar to The Artist, this film is largely dialogue-free, thus opening it up to a world-wide audience. You don’t need to speak French to laugh at Bruno the dog barking at trains, or the whistle-blowing little old lady with one oversized orthopedic shoe.  It’s ALWAYS going to be funny.  When her grandson gets kidnapped by the French mafia and forced into a simulated Tour de France, Grandma and Bruno travel across stormy seas to Belleville, a strange Metropolis-esque city up to no good. Their rescue operation gets some help from three aging singers with a hearty appetite for frogs, and soon they’re all making some strange, fantastic music. It’s delightful, it’s moving, and it’s a glorious love letter to old-school animation.

I don’t know much about cycling, but I do know that in the Tour, the Lanterne Rouge is the cyclist in last place who refuses to drop out. If that isn’t a metaphor for this whole movie, I don’t know what is. Break out the French aperitifs for a Red Lantern cocktail!

Red Lantern

1 ½ oz vodka

½ oz Cointreau

½ oz Chambord

1 oz cranberry juice

½ oz lime juice

Fresh Blackberry or raspberry

Lime Twist

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice, shake, and then strain into a glass. Garnish with a blackberry and lime twist.

Red Lantern

As I get older, and busier, I regret that I don’t take a chance on foreign cinema or animation the way I used to.  The Triplets of Belleville reminds me that great films come from unexpected places, and in unexpected formats.  And it also reminds me that some things, like the love between a boy and his grandma, or a boy and his dog, are universal. Cheers!

The Dreamers

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The Dreamers

Image credit: The Dreamers, 2003

Prone to expressing themselves through movie quotes, cinephiles are easy to spot. Even when they get into a contest over who has seen which obscure film, you know it’s only due to pure enthusiasm for the medium. Thus when I saw The Dreamers (DVD/Download), these characters instantly felt like kindred spirits. Sure, director Bernardo Bertolucci takes things a little too far with his sexually explicit style, but at the core of the film there is a deep love for all things cinema.

Starring Michael Pitt, Eva Green, and Louis Garrel, The Dreamers is set in Paris during the 1968 student riots. It was this era of turmoil, artistic expression, and youthful energy that fueled a cultish devotion to the Cinémathèque Française, the organization upon which all modern film criticism and preservation is based. Seen through the eyes of an American student, Paris seems exciting, revolutionary, and slightly dangerous. By connecting with two French twin cinephiles, his love of film is fostered even further. There are lengthy debates about Chaplin vs. Keaton, a recreation of the Louvre scene in Godard’s Bande à part, and a rather disturbing interaction with Marlene Dietrich’s Blonde Venus. By the time they start chanting “One of us!” (Freaks), I feel drawn in and consumed every bit as much as the naïve protagonist onscreen. These are my people, too.

For a dangerous, intruiguing, sexy film, only a similar sort of cocktail will do. The Sidecar is one of my favorite classic cocktails, the kind of thing that I could picture Dietrich drinking after a night at the Blue Angel. French liqueur Chambord pairs perfectly with the cognac in this drink, bringing it a lovely raspberry subtlety. While watching The Dreamers, I recommend drinking a Chambord Sidecar.

Chambord Sidecar

1 ½ oz Peach Brandy

¾ oz lemon juice

¾ oz Chambord

¼ oz simple syrup

Combine all ingredients in a shaker filled with ice, and shake until chilled. Strain into a coupe glass, and garnish with a lemon twist.

It’s hard not be creeped out by the sexual tension between the two siblings in The Dreamers, and the film’s disappointing second half veers wildly off the rails.  But despite these flaws, the wild, anarchist feeling of Paris in the 60’s remains a constant drumbeat, reminding us that once upon a time, cinema had the power to start a revolution.  Maybe it still does. Cheers!