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The Illusionist

4.2 4
Director: Sylvain Chomet

Cast: Jean-Claude Donda, Eilidh Rankin, Duncan MacNeil

A down-on-his-luck illusionist befriends a pretty admirer, and finds that his constant quest to impress her may be his ultimate downfall in this animated fable based on an original screenplay by Jacques Tati and directed by Sylvain Chomet. Now that the theaters and large performance venues have been taken over by rock bands and pop


A down-on-his-luck illusionist befriends a pretty admirer, and finds that his constant quest to impress her may be his ultimate downfall in this animated fable based on an original screenplay by Jacques Tati and directed by Sylvain Chomet. Now that the theaters and large performance venues have been taken over by rock bands and pop singers, the illusionist has been forced to ply his trade at small gatherings in bars, cafés, and basements in order earn a living. One day, while performing in a small Scottish pub located on a remote island that has only recently been wired for electricity, the illusionist encounters a young girl named Alice, who is captivated by his otherworldly abilities. Alice believes that the downtrodden performer possesses genuine supernatural powers, and agrees to accompany him on a trip to Edinburgh, where he's scheduled to perform at a modest, out-of-the-way theater. Her affection and enthusiasm inspire the illusionist, who in turn uses his talent to lavish her with a series of extravagant gifts. Unable to muster the courage to tell his starry-eyed admirer the truth about his trade, the illusionist continues giving until he's got nothing more to offer. This picture marked Chomet's first following the 2003 arthouse smash The Triplets of Belleville.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Nathan Southern
Audiences reared on Western animated features may have never before seen anything quite like The Illusionist. Adapted by French director-animator Sylvain Chomet from an unproduced live-action script by the late Jacques Tati, and set in 1950s Europe, it's the tale of a middle-aged vaudeville magician appropriately named Tatischeff, en homage to his creator. This stage entertainer is a bit of a one-trick pony: his entire repertoire seems to consist of variations on making handheld objects appear and disappear, and -- once per show -- whipping a hefty, bite-happy rabbit out of his top hat. World-weary and sick of being second-billed to teenybopper rock bands and playing for empty houses, Tatischeff nevertheless continues to trudge through Britain and ply his trade. In the midst of this, he draws the attention of a young girl named Alice. She actually believes that the stage illusions are real, and provides Tatischeff with unsolicited companionship, journeying with him from town to town. The Illusionist constitutes the long-delayed follow-up to Chomet's debut feature, The Triplets of Belleville (2003), and as such, it's a prime example of how to improve on greatness. Triplets was remarkable for many different reasons -- as a visual cornucopia, a foray into way-offbeat surrealist humor, and a resurgence of a very specific type of Euro animation traditionally absent from American cinemas. But one of its most pronounced strengths was a low-key existentialist angst, evident most pointedly in the first act. One of the most delightful qualities of The Illusionist is Chomet's willingness to take the initial melancholic ennui of Triplets and sustain it for all of 80 minutes. The tone is just about perfect. In pulling us into animated versions of the sleepy British hamlets of the post-WWII years, Chomet weaves and perpetuates a quiet lyricism. Everything onscreen is gentle, mellow, languorous -- and that feels exactly right for the setting. We do run into some of the same kinds of wacky, uninhibited eccentrics who populated Belleville (such as a nutty ventriloquist dwarf, and a team of acrobats who do synchronized skips down a hotel staircase while rhythmically chanting). These characters are relegated to incidentals, though, and never overtake the material. Instead, the main focus is on the understated, adult-oriented drama of the unlikely platonic friendship between a lonely pre-teenage girl and an equally isolated adult man who senses, quite rightly, that the world is on the verge of forgetting about him. The most interesting aspect of this relationship has Tatischeff building Alice's sense of self-worth by purchasing more grown-up apparel for her -- a formal coat, a long dress, high-heeled shoes. He's essentially preparing her for womanhood, as a father might. One can imagine a more heavy-handed director overplaying the friendship or the paternal-filial dynamic between the two lead characters, but Chomet keeps it light and subtle, and lets us infer the specifics. He also brings the central relationship to a perfect end. Though the film's final act will not be revealed here, it wraps up beautifully, culminating with a stunning last-minute insight into Tatischeff. It's amazing that a single visual clue could convey as much information as it does, but anyone who leaves before the closing credits (and Chomet's personal dedication) will miss much of the story's meaning. The director also perceives the value of layering many different emotions not simply within the story, but within individual sequences. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the episodes that show the magician looking into alternate work options as his stage opportunities peter out. These scenes provide a considerable amount of jocularity, with hilarious set pieces including a sign-painting gig orchestrated by the acrobats, and Tatischeff's stint performing magic acts in the window of a department store (where he whips bras out of thin air before crowds of spectators). But beneath all of this is a mournful, elegiac quality tempering the laughs -- our knowledge, alongside the character's, that this is the beginning of the end for his magic career. Chomet also implies, given the fates of some of the supporting characters, that this period may spell the last gasp of British vaudeville itself. The Illusionist merits high praise for its thematic depth and ambition, and for the masterful tonal control that Chomet displays from first frame to last; however, what really pushes the film over the top in terms of excellence is its breathtaking aesthetic beauty. Done predominantly in vibrant pen-and-ink, with watercolor fills (with computer-generated effects minimal to nonexistent), the degree of detail is staggering. This extends to both the impressionistic backgrounds and the facial expressions of every character onscreen, including the ones who only turn up for a second or two. What the film suggests, visually, are the kinds of rich and dense illustrations found in classic children's books, brought to stunning animated life. This makes Chomet's presentation as dazzling as his content, and turns The Illusionist from an unusually accomplished and ambitious animated picture into a small knockout of a movie.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Sony Pictures
Region Code:
[Wide Screen]
[Dolby AC-3 Surround Sound]
Sales rank:

Special Features

The making of the Illusionist; The animation process: A rare look at the line tests and progression sequences

Related Subjects

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Jean-Claude Donda Tatischeff,French Cinema Manager
Eilidh Rankin Alice
Duncan MacNeil Additional Voices
James T. Muir Additional Voices
Tom Urie Additional Voices
Paul Bandey Additional Voices
Terry Davies Conductor

Technical Credits
Sylvain Chomet Director,Score Composer,Screenwriter
Richard Bazley Animator
Philippe Carcassonne Executive Producer
Sally Chomet Producer
Michael Coles Animator
Terry Davies Musical Direction/Supervision
Ignacio Ferreras de Zumarraga Animator
Jean-Claude Donda Co-producer
Jake Eberts Executive Producer
Julian Villanua Escalona Animator
Allan Fernando Animator
Alvaro Gaivoto Animator
Jean Goudier Sound/Sound Designer
Edward Hall Animator
Fiona Hall Production Manager
Bjarne Hansen Art Director
Arturo Alejandro Hernandez Animator
Mario Serrano Hervas Animator
Liane-Cho Han Jin Kuang Animator
Bob Last Producer
Greg Manwaring Animator
Gabriel Mase Animator
Cameron McAllister Sound/Sound Designer
Andy McPherson Animator
Jacques Muller Animator
Sydney Padua Animator
Eilidh Rankin Co-producer
Christina Calles Ruiz Animator
Aya Suzuki Animator
Michael Swofford Animator
Nicolette Van Gendt Animator
Leonard Ward Animator

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- The Illusionist
1. Chapter 1 [4:50]
2. Chapter 2 [5:40]
3. Chapter 3 [4:34]
4. Chapter 4 [5:40]
5. Chapter 5 [4:16]
6. Chapter 6 [6:23]
7. Chapter 7 [4:13]
8. Chapter 8 [3:57]
9. Chapter 9 [6:07]
10. Chapter 10 [6:24]
11. Chapter 11 [3:01]
12. Chapter 12 [4:42]
13. Chapter 13 [5:09]
14. Chapter 14 [5:05]
15. Chapter 15 [4:15]
16. Chapter 16 [5:24]


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The Illusionist 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
May-Flowers More than 1 year ago
A beautiful movie, and I mean beautiful, not only visually so but in its quiet storytelling which is both melancholic and uplifting. An unlikely story that handled wrong could have been tinged with unsavory tones, but the writer and director handle it in such a way that there is no doubt of the purity and mutual feelings of the main characters. A man who is what would be considered nowadays a second rate magician travels around Great Britain performing wherever he can manage to get a gig. His travels take him to a small village pub, where an overlooked young girl of little consequence to the world meets him and sees him perform. She is amazed by him, truly believing in the magic he creates, and Alice decides when he leaves that she will go too. She follows him, and though the magician at first does not approve he eventually relents and through their travels comes to be like a father or guardian to her. Tatischeff and Alice are such contrasting characters, the melancholy magician whose belief in the magic of the world is waning and the cheerful Alice who as the movie progresses is shown to be a girl who sees the beauty and magic all around her, and yet they fit together somehow in a very believable way.They meet a cast of characters that even though they only appear briefly, are presented so that I cared very much for them. Their is a scene involving one that is so heartbreaking, and yet the entire length of time the character spent on screen could scarcely be more than five minutes total. That may seem odd, but if you see or have seen this movie I believe you will understand what I mean. It is a hard movie to describe properly. I have never watched any other film that made me happy and sad in the way that this one does so very much. I highly recommend this movie.
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