Movie Name: The Illusionist
Release Date(s): June 16, 2010 (France)/August 20, 2010 (UK)
MPAA Rating: PG
An old magician named Tatischeff finds his work slowing in Paris and sets out to London. When he is lured north to Scotland by a fan, Tatischeff meets a young woman named Alice who sees his magic as reality and an escape from her small world. Travelling to Edinburgh together, Alice becomes a woman as Tatischeff becomes destitute trying to keep her dream alive.
Directed by Sylvain Chomet, The Illusionist (L’illusionniste) is an animated film based on a script by mime Jacques Tati. The movie was intended to be made for decades and went through changes as the project evolved. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.
I really enjoyed The Triplets of Belleville. It was an odd and unique animated film that was both a surprise and fulfilling. While in the same spirit and style of The Triplets of Belleville, The Illusionist is a much more somber film.
The script (like The Triplets of Belleville) has very little dialogue. It is mostly grunting with some French, some Gaelic, and some English. It is virtually a silent picture in that sense and the story is told through imagery and emotion which makes it a universal picture with no need of translation or subtitles.
I was depressed through most of the movie. Tatischeff is barely making ends meet when he meets Alice and it seems like a good thing for him to have a companion…but then it starts to turn south. Alice has entered a magical world and Tatischeff seems to be able to always give her what she needs. The script (in my opinion) doesn’t have her coming off as a very likable character by the end of the film since she knows he’s struggling and continues to make financial demands on him (leading him to have to jettison his only constant—the rabbit). She moves on to her boyfriend and despite his note (“Magicians do not exist”), she probably won’t really learn the lesson.
The animation is stellar. I prefer this style of art to the art of Pixar any day. It is old style but it does incorporate newer computer technology for shots and even plays real film (with a bit of the original writer Tati being shown). I particularly like the sequence of Tatischeff leaving the rabbit in Holyrood Park in Edinburgh and the camera revealing the whole city.
The Illusionist is a bummer of a movie that will not “pick you up” like The Triplets of Bellville. The movie was meant to be an ode from Tati to his estranged daughter, and I hope it was a little more kind to her than the film is to Alice. The movie is worth seeking out but save it for a rainy day and wallow in sadness.