Let’s introduce animation from some other lands. Being from near Belleville, IL, this title always amuses. We start in in France (their home, the race) and travel to Belleville (which looks a great deal like NYC), the place from which grandma must rescue her grandson.
The Triplets of Belleville (2002) – France, Belgium, Canada, and the United Kingdom
Summary: Mysterious gangsters kidnap a bicyclist from the Tour de France. His grandmother travels to the city of Belleville (which has a sardonic version of the Statue of Liberty in its harbor), where she tracks him down with the help of a musical trio gone to seed, the Belleville Triplets.
Recommendation: The absurdity is extreme and can be laugh-out-loud funny. It is a strangely exaggerated style, on the edge of caricature. Parents will want to prescreen for several cultural references (the introductory scene includes a topless dance by a Josephine Baker character, wine is a large portion of the diet of some characters, there is implied murder and attempted murder). While there is little dialogue presented, what is offered is very difficult to understand (no subtitles). Don’t worry – it really isn’t necessary for the plot and humor to come across. Just know that the very last line from one character is answering a question from another much earlier.
Based on the work of Joan G. Robinson from the UK, one of the reasons the main characters do not look Japanese is that it was originally set in Europe. The setting was ‘transferred’ to the wetlands of Hokkaido on the request of Ghibli producers, but they left the blue-eyed appearances intact. It is a psychological drama about feeling disconnected and healing from within.
When Marnie was There (2014) – Japan
Summary: When shy, artistic Anna moves to the seaside to live with her aunt and uncle, she stumbles upon an old mansion surrounded by marshes, and the mysterious young girl, Marnie, who lives there. The two girls instantly form a unique connection and friendship that blurs the lines between fantasy and reality. As the days go by, a nearly magnetic pull draws Anna back to the Marsh house again and again, and she begins to piece together the truth surrounding her strange new friend.
Recommendation: My initial impression of these characters’ relationships was incorrect – that was confusing. I took a moment to read the plot from a wiki and it all became clearer. While the visuals were beautiful (the use of color was amazing), it didn’t translate easily from being either a British novel retold or a Japanese anime with European characters. I ended up liking the main character, Anna, without connection to Marnie. Anna’s transformation by the end was exciting and a relief, especially in how she treated her foster mother.
Are you tired of talk? Here’s a movie with minimal dialogue:
The Red Turtle (2016) – Japan and France
Summary: The dialogue-less film follows the major life stages of a castaway on a deserted tropical island populated by turtles, crabs and birds.
Recommendation: This is a story of magic and survival and finding a purpose to cling to when everything is going wrong. It also introduces an impossible element, that of the red turtle herself. Is she there and transformed because of the castaway? They never try speaking to each other – do they not share a common language? When crisis hits, can they come back together safely? This path starts at his shipwrecking and ends after his death with little in the way of explanation, but it is so beautiful, you don’t mind.