Un Rendez-vous

The wonderful 2003 animated film Les Triplettes de Belleville (The Triplets of Belleville) featured one of the most delightful songs I’ve ever encountered. Written by the Québécois composer Benoît Charest and the film’s French director, Sylvain Chomet, the song begins:

J’veux pas finir mes jours à Tombouctou
La peau tirée par des machines à clous
Moi je veux être fripée
Triplement fripée
Fripée comme une Triplette de Belleville

The English version:

I won’t finish my life in Timbuktu
Cheeks so tight my lips are turning blue
I’d like to be wrinkled
Utterly wrinkled
Wrinkly like a Triplet from Belleville

The literal translation of the second line is “skin pulled [and stapled] with nail guns”!

The wonderful refrain goes:

Swinging Belleville rendezvous
Marathon dancing, doop-de-doo!
Voodoo can-can, the forbidden dance—
In Belleville, a swinging rendezvous!

Here’s the opening sequence from the film, where the song is first introduced. We learn that the Belleville Triplets were a singing group back in the day, and we see them in a black-and-white television retrospective featuring the Triplets with guest appearances by Django Reinhardt, Josephine Baker, and Fred Astaire (who is eaten by his own shoes!):

The song “Belleville Rendez-vous,” which received an Academy Award nomination that year, was sung on the soundtrack by French rock singer-songwriter Mathieu Chedid (also known as as -M-, which is both his initial and a play on the word aime, or “love”). He also released it as a single in both French and English. Here’s the English version:

J’veux pas finir ma vie à Singapour
Jouer au dico manger des petits fours
Moi j’veux être zidiote
Triplement zidiote
Gondolée comme une Triplette de Belleville

I won’t be an old man in Singapore
Playing scrabble and eating petits-fours
I want to be wicked
Utterly wicked
Wicked like the Triplets from Belleville

Ben Charest and Béatrice Bonifassi also performed the song on the soundtrack. Here they are in a live and wonderfully energetic performance, in French:

As a testament to the song’s popularity, here is Kristi Yamaguchi skating to it. No matter how surreal the film is, there is nothing more jarring and bizarre than hearing this music in such a setting:

Allez les filles! (Come on, girls!)

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~ by Craig R. Smith on 10 September 2007.

4 Responses to “Un Rendez-vous”

  1. Another yummy movie. Maureen (Phonological Loops) blogged this with the psychoanalyst’s piece…so bizarre and wonderful. I hope she finds this post.

    Thanks. A great way to start my morning (it’s 6:28, and here I am, now off to textbooking…)

  2. Fantabulous.

  3. I agree, Sewa — this is SUCH a wonderfully catchy song. Thanks for the link, Indigo.

  4. Wicked Weird. I needed this today (a day later than everyone else needed it, apparently).

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