The Illusionist (PG)

Film image
Sylvain Chomet

The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner20/08/2010

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 85 mins

Beautifully animated and utterly charming, this is an absolute treat from start to finish.

What's it all about?
Directed by Sylvain Chomet (Belleville Rendezvous) from an original, unproduced script by near-silent French comedian Jacques Tati (Mon Oncle), The Illusionist begins in Paris, 1959, where stage magician Tatischeff (a tall, gangly, Tati-like figure) and his vicious white rabbit are finding it hard to compete with the crowds for mop-topped rock'n'roll musicians. After a less than successful appearance in London, Tatischeff accepts a drunken invitation to play a pub-based gig in a remote village in the Scottish Highlands where he somehow acquires a hanger-on in the form of a young country girl.

When Tatischeff moves to Edinburgh in pursuit of more regular work, the unnamed country girl tags along and is soon dazzled by the bustling big city life and pining after the expensive clothes she passes in the shop windows. However, when Tatischeff takes pity on her and works hard to buy the things she wants, she thinks he's magicked them out of thin air and begins to take his generosity for granted.

The Good
The animation is stunningly beautiful throughout, but it's the recreation of Edinburgh that really takes your breath away, with gorgeous cityscapes and painstakingly accurate street corners complete with the names of actual pubs and hotels. There are also lots of wonderful character details that add texture and depth to the film - the rabbit, in particular, is a total scene-stealer, while the oddball residents of the Edinburgh boarding house are by turns amusing and heartbreaking.

As you'd expect from a Tati script, the film is basically Jacques Tati meets Belleville Rendezvous - a poster for The Triplets of Belleville is briefly visible and Tatischeff briefly goes to see a screening of Tati's Mon Oncle (a clip from the live-action film plays in the animated cinema), allowing for a delightful cameo by the Cameo cinema.

The Great
The story is admittedly slight and there's virtually no dialogue but it's hard not to be moved by the depiction of an entertainment industry that is moving on from the world of stage artistes or by the sweet-natured, gently paternal relationship that develops between Tatischeff and the girl.

Worth seeing?
Stunningly animated and genuinely moving, The Illusionist is an utterly charming film that's a treat for animation fans. Highly recommended.

Film Trailer

The Illusionist (PG)
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Content updated: 20/09/2018 06:56

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