The Illusionist (L'illusionniste) Reviews
This film, despite its comedic elements, is a melancholic tale of a new culture emerging to replace the old guard. This is highlighted from the get go when the illusionist's act is shunned for that of a trendy modern rock band. He searches high and low for his place in this new world, even going to a remote Scottish town, but ultimately his style of entertainment no longer fits in. Instead, he selflessly sacrifices his own career to give a new prosperous life to a young and awestruck girl from this small Scottish town. Through the illusionist she sees the real world she's been cut off from, and with his help, she grows into a young, beautiful, modern and independent woman. The illusionist's heyday has passed him by, but he finds some meaning through helping another.
Jacques Tati's career ended with a more pensive feel to his films. This film perfectly highlights the middle-ground between his moments of hilarity, and his more reflective, sorrowful moments. Through the sad ending, where the illusionist releases his rabbit, a symbol of his career, into the wild, and leaves on a train, we are also treated to a more optimistic view of our other lead finding love for the first time. This is a perfect homage, made with passion and care, and is a great and deeply affecting, though delayed sendoff to a cinematic great.
Tati never actually made this film. He wrote a script for the story. After his death, the script found its way to Chomet's hands. Where it lay, undisturbed, for a few more years, until Chomet finally made this masterwork.
The animation is 2-D, classic, and magnificent. The scenes, in general, are evocative of their real counterparts. Especially the scenes of Scotland. One feels that you could walk on the same ground the animator protrays. And you possibly could, as Chomet intentionally used real locations as the source material for the animations.
The film feels as if it were a strictly accurate remake of one of Tati's films of the period. It is set in that time, between the 30's and the 50's, when electricity was new to many rural areas. Like the Herriot books, this film captures something of that transitional time. Unlike Herriot, Tati's plot pictures some of the tragedy those changes created. Perhaps somewhat unintentionally, the film is something of a philosophic pondering of the impacts of the changes those years saw.
The one dissonance I found in the story was that the time appeared to be telescoped, with the band characters looking like something out of the 1950's, with presaging elements of more recent musical artists. Unless rural electrification was still ongoing in the 1950's for Europe. Also, at one point in the film, there is a news headline on a street stand "Is It War?", which would indicate a pre-WW2 timing. Still this is a minor quibble, and adds nicely to the overall telling of the story.
Perhaps it is the wrenching of that passage of times, but I ultimately found the film to be tragic. Others will see the film as romantic, but it is bittersweet. The comedic line is always there, as well, for us to laugh and enjoy. It is a beautiful, enchanting tale.
Plus theres this scene where it litterly shows Mon Oncle not as something cute in the background but go all out to make it known. It was a little bit annoying