Friday May 8 – Thursday May 14

Featured Film:

The Triplets of Belleville at the Central Cinema

Sylvain Chomet’s 2003 animated classic about cycling, jazz and questionable eating habits comes to the Central Cinema as part of an unlikely pair of films about bicycles. It’s an art nouveau Finding Nemo as designed by Jacques Tati. Our Preview.
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Playing This Week:

Admiral Theater:

What We Do in the Shadows (Jemaine Clement & Taika Waititi) Fri-Thurs Our Preview

Ark Lodge Cinemas:

White God (Kornél Mundruczó) Fri-Thurs

Central Cinema:

The Triplets of Belleville (Sylvain Chomet, 2003) Fri-Tues
Rad (Hal Needham, 1986) Fri-Weds

Century Federal Way:

Steel Magnolias (Herbert Ross, 1989) Sun Only

SIFF Cinema Egyptian:

Iris (Albert Maysles) Fri-Weds
The Rocky Horror Picture Show (Jim Sharman, 1975) Sat Midnight Only

Grand Cinema:

Clouds of Sils Maria (Olivier Assayas) Fri-Thurs Our Preview
Timbuktu (Abderrahmane Sissako) Tues Only

Grand Illusion Cinema:

Seattle Transmedia & Independent Film Festival Program Details
Roar (Noel Marshall) Sun, Weds and Thurs Only
Hallucinatory Maps (Georg Koszulinski) Tues Only Video & 16mm
Out of Print (Julia Marchese) Weds Only 35mm Director in attendance
Grindhouse Releasing presents Trailer Apocalypse Thurs Only 35mm

Cinemark Lincoln Square Cinemas:

Steel Magnolias (Herbert Ross, 1989) Sun Only

AMC Pacific Place:

Maggie (Henry Hobson) Fri-Thurs
Left Ear (Alec Su) Fri-Thurs

Scarecrow Video Screening Lounge:

Mother’s Day (Charles Kaufman, 1980) Fri Only
The Guy from Harlem (Rene Martinez Jr, 1977) Sat Only
Mildred Pierce (Michael Curtiz, 1945) Sun Only
Trigger, Jr (William Witney, 1950) Mon Only
Baffled (Philip Leacock, 1973) Tues Only
True Stories (David Byrne, 1986) Weds Only
Exterminators of the Year 3000 (Giuliano Carnimeo, 1983) Thurs Only

Seattle Art Museum:

Black Box 2.0: Landscapes, Revisited Fri Only
One Deadly Summer (Jean Becker, 1983) Thurs Only 35mm

Landmark Seven Gables:

Clouds of Sils Maria (Olivier Assayas) Fri-Thurs Our Preview

SIFF Film Center:

What We Do in the Shadows (Jemaine Clement & Taika Waititi) Fri-Sun Our Preview 

Sundance Cinemas Seattle:

Iris (Albert Maysles) Fri-Thurs
5 Flights Up (Richard Loncraine) Fri-Thurs
Lambert & Stamp (James D. Cooper) Fri-Thurs

SIFF Cinema Uptown:

Tangerines (Zaza Urushadze) Fri-Weds

Varsity Theatre:

Adult Beginners (Ross Katz) Fri-Thurs

The Triplets of Belleville (Sylvain Chomet, 2003)


We at Seattle Screen Scene find ourselves deep in preparation for the Seattle International Film Festival (we’re planning extensive coverage, look for our preview sometime early next week), but before we start rolling that out, here’s our Featured Film of the week, Sylvain Chomet’s 2003 Oscar nominee for Best Animated Film, The Triplets of Belleville. Like that year’s Oscar winner, Finding Nemo, the movie is about a parent searching for their lost child, questing through a strange and wondrous world, having adventures and finding help along the way. But otherwise the two films couldn’t be more different, Bellville abandoning the impressive photo-realism of Pixar’s crisp computer images for a highly stylized reality, bodies and shapes distended and distorted in extreme art nouveau parodies of pale yellows, browns and greens, earthy and bilious, daring you to call it ugly.

It opens, as all great films do, with a cartoon. A black and white parody of the 1930s Warner Bros animated shorts that featured celebrity caricatures, with a Django Reinhardt (who looks weirdly like William Powell), a Josephine Baker (the men in the audience, transformed by the eroticism of her dance, turn into psychotic monkeys who rush the stage and steal all the bananas off her skirt) and Fred Astaire who tap dances right out of his shoes, which then grow mouths and devour him like carnivorous Cronenbergian beasts. Right away you know you’re in for something special.


The quest plot follows a woman’s search for her grandson. He’s kidnapped while cycling in the Tour de France and she (along with his faithful dog Bruno) follow his abductors to the city of Belleville, a version of New York City. She’s aided in the search by the eponymous trio, elderly jazz musicians (they sang in the opening cartoon, in their youth) who find rhythm in unlikely household objects and have questionable dietary practices. Food is actually pretty disgusting throughout the film, a part of Chomet’s twin critiques of French and American culture: America is fat and disgusting, the source of overcrowded and soulless modernity; France is pretty gross too, but at least has an appreciation for the finer things in life like wine, jazz and bicycling.

Almost entirely lacking in dialogue (what there is it isn’t necessary to translate), the film is nevertheless resolutely aural, every effect a calculated addition to the symphonic whole, following in the tradition of Jacques Tati (even if you didn’t know Chomet would go on to adapt Tati’s The Illusionist, the reference is obvious: Belleville prominently features a M. Hulot’s Holiday poster, a weather vane in the shape of Tati from Jour de fête and even an actual clip from that same film (in which Tati plays a bicycle-riding mailman)). Similarly, while severely distorted, the bodies in the film follow a ruthlessly inviolable logic: giant mobsters with huge upper bodes and tiny legs dwarf the cars they ride in, as they stand through the sun-roofs of those cars in the final chase sequence, the balance of the vehicle is thrown off and sharp turns cause them to flip over, the villains doomed by their own enormity; a maitre’d so literally spineless in his obsequity that he literally leans over backwards, his head flopping back-to-front and side-to-side. What appears to be simple chaotic weirdness is in fact carefully constructed and calculated to achieve a specific effect, which I guess is a reasonably good definition of jazz.

A wickedly funny, strangely poignant and wildly inventive film, The Triplets of Belleville plays Friday through Tuesday this week at the Central Cinema, whose clever programmers have paired it with another classic about bicycling, the 1986 Hal Needham BMX film, Rad, with Lori Laughlin.