Originally written by legendary French filmmaker Jacques Tati, The Illusionist, which opens in Miami this Friday, is a touchingly simple and beautifully drawn film by renowned animator Sylvian Chomet. When Tati died in 1982, he left behind the screenplay for The Illusionist, which he had intended to be shot in live action. His daughter, Sophie Tatischeff, gave the script to Chomet (who earned praise for his critically acclaimed 2003 animated film The Triplets of Belleville). The result is a tender and moving full length animated movie for adults.
The film takes place in 1959, and tells the story of a magician named Tatischeff whose career has seen better days. A newfangled form of entertainment called 'Rock & Roll' is sweeping the country and garnering the attention of young audiences while strangling off the old vaudevillian ways. Magic is a dying art form, and Tatischeff is finding it increasingly difficult to find work.
He finds work in a small tavern where the patrons find a working light
bulb more fascinating than the magician's tricks. Tatischeff eventually
befriends a young woman who finds his magic charming. He takes the girl
under his wing, giving her new shoes and a roof over her head, even
though he's broke and his prospects bleak. The pair begin an unlikely
friendship as they travel from gig to gig.
Animation is the best way to tell this story. There's little-to-no
dialog, aside from the occasional grunts and laughter by the characters
and the story is richly told through music, and the physicality and
facial expressions of each character. Chomet's attention to detail in
his hand drawn film is phenomenal.
Rainfall constantly falls throughout the film, allowing the bleak rain
swept streets of Edinburgh to take on a life of their own. The film's
most beautiful moments are found in shots of landscapes and puddles and
there's a striking image of a train rolling over a bridge being
reflected on a lake below. There's a lot going on in every frame of The
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Illusionist, but the story never loses its focus. It is a beautiful
film, wonderfully told with gorgeous animation and charming wit.
Look for our full review in this week's issue.