Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Illusionist

The Illusionist comes from two brilliant French minds. The first is Sylvain Chomet and his animation studio who previously brought The Triplets of Belleville to the screen. The second is the late Jacques Tati, the director and star of the Mr. Hulot and others, whose script Chomet works from. The story takes place in 1959 and revolves around a failing magician in Paris who is forced to retreat to London, where he again fails to find an audience, losing them to the latest influx of rock musicians. He once again departs for Edinburgh, Scotland and on his first night in a small rural town outside of the city, he finds the audience in a local bar to love him. He soon draws the affections of a young girl, who stows away in the train to Edinburgh when he goes there to perform. What follows, specifically the details of their plutonic relationship, is bittersweet. Many of the elements reminded me of Mr. Hulot's Holiday. The magician is a Hulot-like character, tall, lanky, and clumsy. There are also some nice slapstick elements, which Tati was a master of. Finally, the bittersweet nature of the story is also indicative of Tati. Chomet also recreates the charm and the oddness of his previous feature. Again, we have almost no spoken dialogue, just occasionally some grumbling and a few words. The story moves at a languid pace, but the hand drawn animation is excellent and serves as a reminder that not all animated movies need to be made with a computer or seen with dark 3D glasses.
*** out of ****