Why The Triplets of Belleville has been renamed Belleville Rendezvous in the UK is one of the many questions left unanswered by this reissue. With what happened to French director Sylvain Chomet’s animation career, which seems to have run out of steam after his adaptation of Jacques Tati in 2010 the illusionist.

The latter, although beautiful to look at, lacks bite, but the years 2003 Belleville Rendezvous is a masterpiece, one of the greatest animated films of the 21st century. Tati’s influence is noticeable throughout this almost silent film, and Chomet’s idiosyncratic use of sound will amuse anyone who has laughed outside the hotel’s swinging door at Mr. Hulot’s Holidays. Several excerpts from Celebration day pop up and look for the postman’s weather vane in several early scenes.

Chomet’s monochrome opening sequence is terrific: a vintage 1930s newsreel featuring the titular triplets singing in close harmony, plus cameos from Harpo Marx, Josephine Baker, Django Reinhardt and Fred Astaire, the latter named devoured by his own tap dancing. We then moved to see the images viewed on television in the 1950s by the orphan Champion and his grandmother Madame Souza. In search of something to excite his melancholy charge, she buys him a puppy before realizing that cycling is his obsession, Champion’s transformation into an angular, bird-like professional racer reflected in the growing bulk and clumsiness of Bruno the dog. The animation style is mostly traditional, with occasional digitally enhanced flourishes, with each frame brimming with hand-drawn detail that repays repeat viewing. Despite the stylized appearance of the characters, Beautiful city feels like live action. Which is in large part due to Chomet’s gift for depicting physical movement, whether it’s an old lady with a club foot descending the stairs or an obese dog climbing up a couch.

Approaching Marseilles during the Tour de France, Champion and two other riders are kidnapped by heavy men in black coats and shipped across the Atlantic in a vast freighter to Belleville, Souza and Bruno follow them in a pedalo on the Accompaniment to Mozart’s Mass in C Minor. Belleville, a brash metropolis resembling a mix of New York, Toronto and Montreal, is populated by grotesquely obese people. Aided by Bruno’s keen sense of smell, Souza sets out to find her grandson, a task made easier by a chance encounter with the aged triplets. Saving Champion from an evil mafia gambling plot involves slapstick and brutality in equal measure, one of the reasons for the film’s 12 note. The climactic car chase, with the bad guys driving stretched Citroën 2CVs, is superbly choreographed and viscerally thrilling. An offbeat treat, crowned by Benoit Charest’s inventive and catchy score.

Curzon’s transfer is flawless and sounds great, but unfortunately this version doesn’t contain any bonus features outside of the trailer. If you fancy more Chomet, his debut in 1998 The old lady and the pigeons is available on YouTube. Like a shiny couch gag created for The simpsons, taking up a visual gag seen in Beautiful cityopening minutes.

@GrahamRickson