The Illusionist (PG)

Film

Animation

The Illusionist

Time Out rating:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>5</span>/5

User ratings:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>3</span>/5
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Time Out says

Tue Aug 17 2010

Okay, hands up who would have guessed that a warmly nostalgic, near-silent comedy about the decline of the music hall in post-war Europe would be one of the year’s most immaculately constructed, heartbreaking releases? With his remarkable new film ‘The Illusionist’, French-born artisan Sylvain Chomet (writer-director of 2003’s ‘Belleville Rendez-Vous’) joins the lofty ranks of John Lasseter, Brad Bird and Hayao Miyazaki as one of the masters of modern feature animation.

The film is adapted from an unfilmed script by the late Jacques Tati that some think was intended as a bashful apologia to Sophie, his daughter. It’s a gorgeous visual poem that explores the practicalities of following one’s dreams at the expense of parental responsibility. It gently circles a shambling stage illusionist named Tatischeff (Tati’s real surname) as he tours his creaky act from neon-lit Paris to drizzly Edinburgh with a carnivorous white rabbit in tow. While performing in a far-flung Scottish pub, a naive young lass named Alice latches on to his coat tails and stows away with him to the capital. She believes he has real magical powers.

Alice and Tatischeff’s wordless rapport is beautifully orchestrated and developed – she offers him a coy peck on the cheek as he showers her with gifts, he manfully rebuffs her affection but protects her. As Tatischeff gallantly swims against the turning tide of a fickle entertainment industry, it’s clear Alice is an emblem of his need to succeed, as a performer and a father figure. But the seductiveness of the city and the allure of modern fashions draw Alice in her own direction, towards love and independence.

As much as Tati’s gravity-defying saunter as M Hulot can’t help but provoke a wry smile, Chomet recognises that the principal skill of his muse was as a filmmaker, and more than that, as a neurotic micro-architect of screen comedy. As such, scenes are mounted in mid or long shot and ‘camera’ movement is kept to a minimum, allowing each frame to buzz with detail. Chomet recreates the streets of 1950s Edinburgh with photorealist precision, creating a veritable location-spotter’s dream for anyone familiar with the area.

Purists may moan that there is too much of a defined story for this to be a ‘genuine’ Tati article, but that’s only because Chomet puts his own eccentric stamp on it. Tati thought anything could be funny, and while Chomet runs with that idea as a director, he challenges it as a storyteller. ‘The Illusionist’ presents a cruel world in flux, a place where people grow old and drift apart and loneliness and failure lead to tragedy. The last five minutes are almost unwatchably sad, as Alice blossoms into adulthood while Tatischeff refuses to abandon his youth. The film’s parting suggestion is that a neat sleight of hand may be okay in the moment, but to excel as a parent, you need more than magic.

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Release details

Rated:

PG

UK release:

Fri Aug 20, 2010

Duration:

85 mins

Cast and crew

Director:

Sylvain Chomet

Screenwriter:

Jacques Tati, Sylvain Chomet

Users say

0
<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>0</span>/5

Average User Rating

3.4 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:7
  • 4 star:1
  • 3 star:3
  • 2 star:4
  • 1 star:0
LiveReviews|40
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oi

The point you're all missing is that this film is an animated tale of a washed up magician. This obviously implies it won't be an incredible adventure with a complex plot and tongue-in-cheek moments; but the emotion that builds up slowly is much better. The "boring" scenes of everyday life, which Chomet brings to life, ensure you are fully acquainted with the characters before their stories fully blossom. A touching tale

oi

The point you're all missing is that this film is an animated tale of a washed up magician. This obviously implies it won't be an incredible adventure with a complex plot and tongue-in-cheek moments; but the emotion that builds up slowly is much better. The "boring" scenes of everyday life, which Chomet brings to life, ensure you are fully acquainted with the characters before their stories fully blossom. A touching tale

Will Cohen

I left the cinema sorely disappointed after expecting so much... the pace and stunning visuals of belleville rendezvous are here too, but without the charm. Like other comments here, without knowing the b.g. to the film I was left thinking it was all a bit pointless, drawn out and boring... a film should stand up on its own without some study beforehand!

Will Cohen

I left the cinema sorely disappointed after expecting so much... the pace and stunning visuals of belleville rendezvous are here too, but without the charm. Like other comments here, without knowing the b.g. to the film I was left thinking it was all a bit pointless, drawn out and boring... a film should stand up on its own without some study beforehand!

andy

Fantastic animation, really beautiful, especially the section in Edinburgh which really envokes the city, but the story is so langid it almost puts itself & the audience to sleep (I really have to agree with some of the comments...it's just not funny enough). So overall, good, worth watching but nothing amazing.

andy

Fantastic animation, really beautiful, especially the section in Edinburgh which really envokes the city, but the story is so langid it almost puts itself & the audience to sleep (I really have to agree with some of the comments...it's just not funny enough). So overall, good, worth watching but nothing amazing.

avm

beautiful visuals, nicely atmospheric (if at times too naturalistic) , this film works as a homage to scotland and edinburgh in particular. it doesn't work as a story and compared to the triplettes it is downright uninventive and sadly lacking in memorable or funny moments. the audience chuckled twice... this sort of renders the discussion about the origin of the story pointless.

avm

beautiful visuals, nicely atmospheric (if at times too naturalistic) , this film works as a homage to scotland and edinburgh in particular. it doesn't work as a story and compared to the triplettes it is downright uninventive and sadly lacking in memorable or funny moments. the audience chuckled twice... this sort of renders the discussion about the origin of the story pointless.

Colliedog

I was almost put off by the one star reviews on this site, but I'm glad I went to see for myself. I can well believe that Tati intended the story to be for his eldest daughter, and for me that makes the whole thing even more poignant. Also, living as I do in Edinburgh, I thought the film captured the spirit of the city wonderfully and the cityscapes were at times breathtakingly beautiful. Things that get the five star/one star response are almost always worth seeing, whether in the end you love them or hate them. I loved this film and will probably see it again. I'm still trying to work out if it's the city or the rabbit that steals the show.!

Colliedog

I was almost put off by the one star reviews on this site, but I'm glad I went to see for myself. I can well believe that Tati intended the story to be for his eldest daughter, and for me that makes the whole thing even more poignant. Also, living as I do in Edinburgh, I thought the film captured the spirit of the city wonderfully and the cityscapes were at times breathtakingly beautiful. Things that get the five star/one star response are almost always worth seeing, whether in the end you love them or hate them. I loved this film and will probably see it again. I'm still trying to work out if it's the city or the rabbit that steals the show.!

Phil Ince

I'd give it a 3 for the visuals which resemble an attractive watercolour animated. Tati's films have nothing for the mind but generally feed the eye and the heart; but this offers nothing for the heart, either. That I can recall, the animators never give us a close up and the features of the Tati character are so often so faintly depicted, they might as well not be there. For quite a little while during the earlier part of the film, I kept thinking he was wearing spectacles. Many of the characters are grotesques which is ok for adults but counterproductive when they are children; it gives the thing a nasty look. The girl from the islands who Tati takes to Edinburgh with him is an unhelpful mix of visually unpleasant and seemingly grasping; she’s commonly depicted asking Tati for expensive things he can ill-afford. She effectively steals a pair of shoes from him that he has bought as a present for her and as his fortunes fade, we see her become progressively better dressed at his expense. Quite what we are intended to make of the love affair with a Sean Connery lookalike, I’m not sure. She’s fed Tati and dressed their home quite as well as she has herself, but there’s no sign of affection from her; I’m unclear what she signifies. Several events, such as Tati’s discharge from his post at the garage, are poorly depicted dramatically so that it’s not clear what happened. The whole film simply drifts, sometimes with needless haste, from one underpowered event to another. The scenery is lovely, the lighting sometimes gorgeous and the basic mannerisms of Tati are well done but otherwise this isn’t a success. If what reaches the screen is described in the screenplay, Tati didn’t film it for solid reasons; it’s really not that good.

Phil Ince

I'd give it a 3 for the visuals which resemble an attractive watercolour animated. Tati's films have nothing for the mind but generally feed the eye and the heart; but this offers nothing for the heart, either. That I can recall, the animators never give us a close up and the features of the Tati character are so often so faintly depicted, they might as well not be there. For quite a little while during the earlier part of the film, I kept thinking he was wearing spectacles. Many of the characters are grotesques which is ok for adults but counterproductive when they are children; it gives the thing a nasty look. The girl from the islands who Tati takes to Edinburgh with him is an unhelpful mix of visually unpleasant and seemingly grasping; she’s commonly depicted asking Tati for expensive things he can ill-afford. She effectively steals a pair of shoes from him that he has bought as a present for her and as his fortunes fade, we see her become progressively better dressed at his expense. Quite what we are intended to make of the love affair with a Sean Connery lookalike, I’m not sure. She’s fed Tati and dressed their home quite as well as she has herself, but there’s no sign of affection from her; I’m unclear what she signifies. Several events, such as Tati’s discharge from his post at the garage, are poorly depicted dramatically so that it’s not clear what happened. The whole film simply drifts, sometimes with needless haste, from one underpowered event to another. The scenery is lovely, the lighting sometimes gorgeous and the basic mannerisms of Tati are well done but otherwise this isn’t a success. If what reaches the screen is described in the screenplay, Tati didn’t film it for solid reasons; it’s really not that good.

ndeb

Truly a technical and visual accomplishment. A magnificent spectacle, but an absolutely pointless film and a starkly unsatisfactory experience for the viewer. Thin, unappealing, empty, Emphatically not five star material. A remarkable disappointment after Belleville Rendez-Vous.

ndeb

Truly a technical and visual accomplishment. A magnificent spectacle, but an absolutely pointless film and a starkly unsatisfactory experience for the viewer. Thin, unappealing, empty, Emphatically not five star material. A remarkable disappointment after Belleville Rendez-Vous.

Arthur K

Painfully slow and not knowing the scripts back story before I saw it I was left indifferent about the relationship between the two main characters. Strangely not funny for a Tati movie that only allows itself to suggest the depths Tati had intended with his most personal script.

Arthur K

Painfully slow and not knowing the scripts back story before I saw it I was left indifferent about the relationship between the two main characters. Strangely not funny for a Tati movie that only allows itself to suggest the depths Tati had intended with his most personal script.

MsR

Wonderful film. The artwork is a joy to watch and the story is delightful if sad at times.

MsR

Wonderful film. The artwork is a joy to watch and the story is delightful if sad at times.

Mr C

Such a beautiful piece of work, this. It takes the bare threads of a story and weaves from them something subtle, complex, and touchingly, achingly human. Above all, though, it is a love letter to the city of Edinburgh. I'm no fan of Tati, but for all the hysterical ranting here, this is entirely Chomet's masterpiece, not Jacques'.

Mr C

Such a beautiful piece of work, this. It takes the bare threads of a story and weaves from them something subtle, complex, and touchingly, achingly human. Above all, though, it is a love letter to the city of Edinburgh. I'm no fan of Tati, but for all the hysterical ranting here, this is entirely Chomet's masterpiece, not Jacques'.

jimbob100

Bit confused by all the family stuff not what Chomet (chomski??!!) said in the interview. But leave that aside it is a beautiful movie that adds something to the diversity of cinema - a rare treat. Yes it has more story than a Tati movie - is that a bad thing ? I love his films but the later ones do go on a bit and the laughs are often a bit few and far between (Playtime anyone ?). Want the DVD so I can watch it again - like Belleville & Spirited Away this movie shows just how powerful animation can be.

jimbob100

Bit confused by all the family stuff not what Chomet (chomski??!!) said in the interview. But leave that aside it is a beautiful movie that adds something to the diversity of cinema - a rare treat. Yes it has more story than a Tati movie - is that a bad thing ? I love his films but the later ones do go on a bit and the laughs are often a bit few and far between (Playtime anyone ?). Want the DVD so I can watch it again - like Belleville & Spirited Away this movie shows just how powerful animation can be.

matt

chomski's missed a trick cutting the real story out of existence in exchange for a diluted tati pastiche...crap really. if i was tati i'd be grave turning.

matt

chomski's missed a trick cutting the real story out of existence in exchange for a diluted tati pastiche...crap really. if i was tati i'd be grave turning.

A_Beanman

zone12... does you shoulder hurt from patting yourself on the back or are your hands red raw from clapping at your 2 posts

A_Beanman

zone12... does you shoulder hurt from patting yourself on the back or are your hands red raw from clapping at your 2 posts

Zone12

Yes I have, in Paris last month and it’s a stinker that you would be a good alternative to sleeping pills.

Zone12

Yes I have, in Paris last month and it’s a stinker that you would be a good alternative to sleeping pills.

Zone12

The film is based on an unproduced script that the French mime, director and actor Jacques Tati had written in 1956 as a personal letter to his estranged eldest daughter, Helga Marie-Jeanne Schiel born when he was working in the music halls of Paris during the Second World war and NOT Sophie Tatischeff ,Tati's younger daughter who was not estranged. The family of Tati, who all now live in the UK, have been less than impressed with Chomets spiteful attitude to the issuse that the script was supposed to address by Tati.

Zone12

The film is based on an unproduced script that the French mime, director and actor Jacques Tati had written in 1956 as a personal letter to his estranged eldest daughter, Helga Marie-Jeanne Schiel born when he was working in the music halls of Paris during the Second World war and NOT Sophie Tatischeff ,Tati's younger daughter who was not estranged. The family of Tati, who all now live in the UK, have been less than impressed with Chomets spiteful attitude to the issuse that the script was supposed to address by Tati.