The Illusionist

The Illusionist is a beautiful traditionally animated film by the same people who gave us The Triplets of Belleville. Based on a 1956 unproduced script by Jacques Tati it was a story he wrote but did not have a chance to make into a film. 

The story is about a magician (played by Tati) who travels around Europe performing in small theaters and night clubs with his rabbit. In a small Scottish village where he is invited to perform in a pub he meets a young girl who befriends him and innocently believes his magic is real. The girl follows him back to Paris where through the course of the film she matures into a woman just as the magician is running out of money to support her.

The movie shows how small town girls are seduced by the big city ways of life and fashion and how the old traditional forms of entertainment have been replaced by new ones. The film is like a typical Jacques Tati film in that it has very little dialogue and relies on visual humor of awkward or unusual situations. The physical humor of Jacques Tati is very accurately recreated here and the film may seem slow to someone not used to Tati’s type of humor. I recommend you see some of Jacques Tati’s classic films first like Jour de FĂȘte, Mr. Hulot’s Holiday, Mon Oncle, and Playtime.

The hand drawn animation is very detailed and looks extraordinarily beautiful as it depicts, very realistically, locations in Europe from small coastal villages to big city landscapes. The film is set in an unknown past but it looks to be around 1959 as many old ways were giving way to new ones.

Like all of Jacques Tati’s films it is well worth seeing and has a very intimate old world theatrical feel to it as you get to know the characters only through their actions and expressions.


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