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.



Reviews Counted: 129

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Audience Score

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Average Rating: 3.8/5

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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

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News & Interviews for The Illusionist (L'illusionniste)

Critic Reviews for The Illusionist (L'illusionniste)

All Critics (129) | Top Critics (29)

  • 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)

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 Hunter
Jim Hunter

Super Reviewer

three stars

MisterYoda ?
MisterYoda ?

Super Reviewer


For its beauty and my expectations, high expectations, "L'illusionniste" is one of those films you just have to watch in a movie theater. Unable to do it, though, I had to go against Tati's 'principles' and watch it as only our modern time allows: the big screen was replaced by my laptop's one. Convinced that it was the reason of my disappointment, I watched it for the second time. The very beginning makes me smile. I like its humor. I can see Chomet's touch here and there. Visually speaking, there's no other way than say that "L'illusionniste" is perfect. However, something is missing. I could imagine "My Dog Tulip", amazing animation entirely supported by narration, without any words and it would be more interesting. Originality, that's the word. The weirdness, the chaos, the freshness of "Triplets of Belleville" gives place to an accessible and bland narrative. I like a lot the idea of the old illusionist trying to survive in a modern world of images and sounds. I like a lot the idea of two strangers who don't speak the same language trying to communicate somehow. I 've already seen myself in a similar situation, walking with a small dictionary in my bag, point out words I didn't dare to talk afraid of the wrong pronunciation. I like how such relationships can develop, but was it really necessary Alice to become a Barbie and meets prince charming? The end can be melancholic, but it's still a Disney fairy tale. After reading Richard Tatischeff 's letter, I felt relieved. He says how in the original script "the young girl attracts the attention of a handsome young man who exposes the conjurer's magic as fraudulent, nothing more than cheap tricks, illusions created to entertain an audience. Unable to hold onto her affections once his charade has been exposed the script concludes with the conjurer disappearing off into the sunset free of his deceit having as he always known he would lost the affections of the young girl to youth and the vibrancy of the city once she was able to see beyond his theatrics" . That was exactly my point. I was not convinced that Alice believed his illusions were real, even so, she is more amazed by what she can gain from his magic than the magic itself. She only discovers the truth with Tatischeff's note that "magicians do not exist". He would, of course, lose her for the young boy, but I'm sure he wouldn't lose Alice's affections even after "his charade had been exposed" because she is, like the boy, a good (in both meanings) fairy tale character. Something like that - "throughout his career Tati was often quoted as saying that his Hulot was just a character he had created and he himself was a very different person to what was seen on screen. The very title, l'Illusionniste illustrates how Tati was aware at how his public persona was a veil that contradicted the real man"- would be quite interesting. However, after watching "Mon Oncle", I have to say that Alice is quite possible the way she is portrayed. Tati would be more whimsical and not so emotive as Chomet is here, but I can picture Monsieur Hulot taking several jobs to dress up the neighbor's young daughter if in the same situation that Tatischeff and Alice were.

Rubia  Carolina
Rubia Carolina

Super Reviewer

As with The Triplets Of Belleville, I was immediately enveloped by the story and the world presented here and the (for all intents and purposes) "silent film" style of story telling. My modern (read: jaded) sensibilities had me thrown off at first. I kept thinking how can this old man not be freaked out that this young girl ran away to be with him? Surely people would question his intentions? But if you can get past that and watch the story unfold under the premise of a kindly Father trying to live up to the expectations of his (in this case adopted) is a beautiful story and really quite sad. The animation and music is delightful and really make the whole experience that much more magical. While this is not an animated film that would hold a (normal) childs interest for very long, I think most adults will appreciate the many layers of charm.

Robert C
Robert C

Super Reviewer

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