Still courtesy of TIFF.
Not be confused with 2006’s The Illusionist (which is itself not to be confused with 2006’s The Prestige), this Illusionist is director Sylvain Chomet’s ode to beloved French filmmaker/mime/actor Jacques Tati. Based on a long-abandoned script penned by Tati and writing partner Henri Marquet in the 1960s, between production of his Mon Oncle and Playtime, for decades The Illusionist floated around, accruing a reputation as one of the great shelved film comedies. Kind of like The Day the Clown Cried. Or Ernest the Pirate.
As a comedy, The Illusionist isn’t really on the same level of Tati’s other features. It’s an animated film, for one, developing on the stylistic flourish Chomet exhibited in spades with his previous feature, 2003’s The Triplets of Belleville. And though there’s plenty of the proto–Mr. Bean bungling Tati fans love, The Illusionist hits some pretty strong emotional notes as well.
The film follows an aging stage magician as he travels around mid–twentieth century Europe eking out a living. Along the way, he picks up Alice, a wide-eyed Scottish lass who believes him to really be magic. Exquisitely animated, consistently funny, and profoundly sad, The Illusionist proves Chomet a certified master of animated storytelling. Realized in a muted, but intensely rich colour palette and possessing only scarce dialogue, The Illusionist trumps anything Pixar has pulled out of their hat in recent years.
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