The Illusionist (2010) is an animated drama film directed by Sylvain Chomet. The film contains almost no dialogue, and what little is in the film is barely audible. Instead of putting the focus of the film on the words, The Illusionist is completely reliant on the story and the marvelous animation.
The main character is a struggling illusionist called Tatischeff. At the beginning of the film he is working in Paris in the late 1950’s. He is performing for small audiences that don’t seem to appreciate his talents, but it doesn’t seem to bother him. He soon travels to London where he is the second act to a young British rock band, but once the band finishes their set, the audience leaves and Tatischeff is once again playing to an empty house.
He gets invited to Scotland where his talents are more appreciated, especially when a young girl named Alice sees him and believes he has actual magical abilities. Tatischeff buys Alice a new pair of red shoes because he sees that her old shoes have become ragged and worn.
When he leaves this small town, Alice packs a bag and follows him. When Tatischeff discovers that she has followed him he doesn’t exactly know what to do with her, but he accepts her company and begins to take an active interest in her wellbeing. They move into a small apartment in a building filled with unemployed and struggling performers, all of whom see their careers fading away. Tatischeff continues to shower Alice with gifts, and without steady work as an illusionist, he finds himself having to take jobs not in the entertainment community in order to survive.
The Illusionist is nothing like your typical animated movie. It is touching and sad, and even embodies a realistic quality. The realism isn’t because the animation make the people look realistic, but because unlike most animated films, these characters are dealing with “real life” problems. Right from the start I felt sorry for Tatischeff and I wanted to see him succeed, even though it seems impossible. His art is something that was fading in the late 1950’s, and along with everyone else in his run down apartment building (clowns, a ventriloquist and acrobats), times will force all of them to find a new way of life. The rock band shows how the entertainment industry is changing, and if you can’t adapt with the times, you will be lost. At one point the ventriloquist is forced to sell his dummy. It sits for sale in the shop window until eventually the price tag changes to free. Even then, nobody takes the dummy, and like the illusionist himself, he becomes a worthless relic.
Besides the story of the illusionist and his work, there is the heartfelt story of his relationship with Alice. The Illusionist is based on an unpublished story by the accomplished director, actor and mime, Jacques Tati. (Hence the beauty of a film with little dialogue.) Although there is some controversy around the details, The Illusionist has been said to be based on his own real life relationship with his estranged daughter. The film indicates that Tatischeff had a long lost daughter himself. Perhaps he believes Alice to be his daughter, or maybe he just treats her like his daughter because of his own pain and guilt over his own child. Either way, Tatischeff is saddened by his past and Alice is his chance at redemption.
The Illusionist was a wonderful film, although I wasn’t expecting something quite this serious. The quality of the film is extremely high and it is obvious that director Sylvain Chomet and his team put everything they had into this film’s production. They went well over budget and had essentially no chance of ever breaking even, but The Illusionist was not a film that intended to make people rich. It is an art film and is indeed worthy of praise for its quality.Back to Home for More Reviews