The Triplets of Belleville

Soundtrack by Ben Charest

2003: Higher Octave 72435 96811 2 2

  1. Under the Bridge
  2. Belleville Rendez-Vous [French Version] by -M-
  3. Opening Theme
  4. Cabaret Opening
  5. Tour de France
  6. Attalia Marcel
  7. Bruno’s Theme
  8. Easy, Bruno, Easy
  9. Belleville Rendez-Vous [Demo]
  10. French Mafia Theme
  11. Jazzy Bach
  12. Cabaret Hoover
  13. Belleville Jungle
  14. “Cieco Cieco” Barber
  15. Pa Pa Pa Palavas
  16. The Return of the French Mafia
  17. The Shadowing
  18. The Chase
  19. Belleville Rendez-Vous [English Version] by -M-

A few moments ago, in early February 2005, I discovered that I hadn’t added this CD to my online list yet, and I actually yelped. This beauty’s been in my collection for four months, how did I miss including it???

Well, mea culpas aside, I truly must say that this is a lovely album to enjoy again and again. I heard it once before seeing the film and thought “well, it’s a little repetitious, but those are some seriously unique sounds and styles being presented.” Little did I know about the latter…. When I did finally watch the film, I was multiply enchanted by its soundtrack: now the music and sounds make sense, and I listen to this album not just for the music but also for the images and characters evoked by each track.

Without question the greatest track on this CD is “Cabaret Opening,” with “Under the Bridge” hot on its heels and only taking Second Place because it’s an excellent projection of the former: both are, for me, inextricably and powerfully interlinked with their filmtime visuals, so even playing the CD transports me back into the whole multimedia experience of the film. “Cabaret Hoover” is similarly loaded, but there it’s the sounds that dominate and not the music…and the music of the other two is far beyond catchy. Part of what makes it so addictive to listen to is the juxtaposition of sweet harmonies and creative dissonances, especially when these slide major and minor chordings against each other left and right. “Cabaret Opening” also benefits from an almost-tribal thumping resonance under it all, hinting at wildness and darkness lurking in the shadows of the “glamorous” nightclub setting (as is reinforced by the revisiting of the motif in the “Cabaret Hoover” scene in the film—same crowd, different speed, correspondingly shifted ambiance). Further, those harmonies the Triplets sing in the original version of the song certainly hypnotize and tease with the distinct nuances of each of the three voices (even if the three are all Béatrice Bonifassi in this case, giving us three different character voices), just as the three characters’ animations are ever-so-subtly unique even within their three-in-one packaging; the coy cooing of their tones adds to the mystique of the sound, as does the playful carelessness about hitting exact notes and staying there. Also, I love the way the “verses” (instrumental stretches for onstage acts) often get introduced or concluded with a sweeping whirl of notes and rhythms.

When I bring this CD to my office, I generally skip the tracks with vocals—my uber-boss is extremely sensitive about verbiage in music around her—so a few of the tracks get ignored, and the “Tour de France” track is really only interesting in the context of the film, while the -M- songs (and the Demo) are fine if I’m specifically in the mood for them. But as long as I can ensure that Miss Sensitivity won’t walk in just then, I always play the two Cabaret-theme tracks, and in any case we groove elegantly to the assorted instrumentals (which do play heavily with the Bach theme that’s more blatantly addressed with “Jazzy Bach”).

Fun stuff all around. Personally I’d love to hear/have an album full of stuff like the “Cabaret Opening,” with a second CD featuring “old-ladies” versions of the first tracks as they would have evolved if reprised or sustained by their original singers. Mr Charest…?