The Illusionist (L'illusionniste)

Critics Consensus

An engrossing love letter to fans of adult animation, The Illusionist offers a fine antidote to garish mainstream fare.



Total Count: 129


Audience Score

User Ratings: 16,084
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Movie Info

The Illusionist is one of a dying breed of stage entertainers. With emerging rock stars stealing his thunder in the late 1950s, he is forced to accept increasingly obscure assignments in fringe theatres, at garden parties and in bars and cafés. Then, while performing in a village pub off the west coast of Scotland, he encounters Alice, an innocent young girl, who will change his life forever. Watching his performance for the excited villagers who are celebrating the arrival of electricity on their remote island, Alice is awestruck by his show and believes his tricks are real magic. Though they don‟t speak the same language, the two lonely strangers quickly bond through small kindnesses. Fascinated by The Illusionist, Alice stows away on his departing ship and follows him to Edinburgh. There, they quickly fall into a father - daughter relationship, with Alice keeping their home at a boarding house for vaudevillians, while he goes to work in a small local theatre. Enchanted by her enthusiasm for his act, The Illusionist rewards Alice with increasingly lavish gifts he has 'conjured' into existence. Desperate not to disappoint her, he cannot bring himself to reveal that magic does not exist and that he‟s driving himself to ruin working all night jobs to buy her gifts. As The Illusionist grows older, Alice grows up. She falls in love with a young man and is no longer so enchanted by The Illusionist‟s conjuring. She moves on with her life, and The Illusionist no longer has to pretend. Untangled from his own web of deceit, he resumes his life as a much wiser man. -- (C) Sony Pictures Classics


News & Interviews for The Illusionist (L'illusionniste)

Critic Reviews for The Illusionist (L'illusionniste)

All Critics (129) | Top Critics (31) | Fresh (117) | Rotten (12)

  • Director Sylvain Chomet manages to rouse a lot of smirks and smiles through the small nuance and inferences that were Tati's signature.

    Oct 18, 2011 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…
  • The film ends on a note of graceful, heartbreaking beauty that Tati would have admired for its lack of sentimentality. A lot of what precedes that ending, though, is precious and slight and a little too fanciful.

    Feb 10, 2011 | Rating: 2.5/4
  • This is a remarkable movie: lovely, slow-paced and almost silent, rich with pathos and deft comic gestures.

    Feb 4, 2011 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…
  • The Illusionistis magical in more ways than one.

    Feb 3, 2011 | Rating: A- | Full Review…
  • A lovely appreciation of Tati and a loving, bittersweet look at the end of the 1950s, before entertainers like the magician of the title were displaced by rock bands and other more visceral acts.

    Feb 3, 2011 | Rating: 4.5/5 | Full Review…
  • A French import that's long on grace notes and wry humor, it eschews flash and opts for heart to great effect.

    Jan 28, 2011 | Rating: A- | Full Review…

    Tom Long

    Detroit News
    Top Critic

Audience Reviews for The Illusionist (L'illusionniste)

  • Oct 19, 2013
    A magician and a cleaning girl travel and attempt to make a life at his dying art. Predominantly silent, this animated film has moments of charm, but mostly its slow pace and lack of substance makes for a dull time. The final moment, with the illusionist's self-abnegation, wreaks of over-sentimentality, and while I might attempt to identify with it, I do so in only most maudlin way. Artistically, the animation is anti-realistic and cartoonish. It's hard to take the themes as seriously as the director would wish considering how the medium is the message in this case. Overall, though it might strike a few fancies, mine is not one of them.
    Jim H Super Reviewer
  • Jul 18, 2013
    Beautiful, bittersweet, and mesmerising tale of a stage magician struggling to find his place in a changing world.
    Marcus W Super Reviewer
  • Jul 09, 2013
    My deepest respects go to Sylvian Chomet who was capable of reviving Tati's spirit with an enamoring triumph of modern animation. <i>L'illusionniste</i> continues with the pacing trademarks of <i>Les Triplettes de Belleville</i> (2003) but feels more special. It has one of the most tender and humble hearts I have ever seen portrayed on film, once again extinguishing all possible dialogue in order to highlight body language. We are compelled to read the characters' personalities through their actions and put attention to details, because in every shot there is something happening that is supposed to be seen, like in Tati's <i>Playtime</i> (1967). In this case, however, we encounter an animation feature, thus inviting all audiences around the world - including subtitle haters - to watch carefully the animation style. The last 10 minutes are a breathtaking dream. 97/100
    Edgar C Super Reviewer
  • Apr 01, 2013
    A beautifully animated and very moving movie from French director Sylvain Chomet, The Illusionist is a wonderful escape from the perils of today's dumbed-down animated movies that are aimed only at young children. It's rated PG, but it never panders to a younger audience; it's very mature and thoughtful, and adults will appreciate its simplicity and power while children can appreciate the whimsical animation and subtle sense of humor. The movie tells the story of Tatischeff, a French illusionist who, while performing a show at a Scottish pub, meets a young girl named Alice who is mesmerized by his act. She believes him to be a true magician, and the two form a close father-daughter relationship. The screenplay was initially written by French director Jacques Tati in the late 1950s as a form of reconciliation with his estranged daughter who he only saw once when she was a baby, but he never produced it because it was far too personal and sensitive of a subject for him. Sylvain Chomet was clearly inspired by Tati though, and included many small nods to him, including a brief scene in which Tatischeff goes to a movie theater to watch Tati's film Mon Oncle. The Illusionist ends on an incredibly emotional and bittersweet note, perhaps in reference to the unfortunate circumstances surrounding the original script. Regardless of the movie's history though, The Illusionist is a remarkably well-made animated movie that is just as good as those of Disney in its prime, and it deserves to be seen by all who can appreciate good animation and passionate storytelling.
    Joey S Super Reviewer

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