Friday, April 15, 2011

Sylvain Chomet “The Illusionist” (2010)

This assignment critically analyzes Sylvain Chomet’s movie “The Illusionist”. It is extremely beautifully done animation and it is extremely fun to watch. This review is based on Roger Ebert’s review from Chicago Sun Times, Amy Biancolli’s review from “San Francisco Chronicle” and J. Hoberman’s review from “The Village Voice”.


“The Illusionist” (French: L'Illusionniste) is a 2010 animated comedic drama film directed by c. The film is based on an unproduced script written by French mime, director and actor Jacques Tati in 1956. Controversy surrounds Tati's motivation for the script, which was written as a personal letter to his estranged eldest daughter, Helga Marie-Jeanne Schiel in collaboration with his long-term writing partner Henri Marquet, between writing for the films Mon Oncle and Playtime.


In Amy Biacolli’s words: “This is a remarkable movie: lovely, slow-paced and almost silent, rich with pathos and deft comic gestures.” (“San Francisko Chronicle” Friday, January 14, 2011). "The Illusionist" is as much a Tati film as it is a Chomet film. Jacques Tati's undeniable comic style and themes are present throughout the film. In fact, the lead character, an aging illusionist, is not only named Tatischeff, but is drawn to look like Tati's Mr. Hulot character. "The Illusionist" tells the tale of a hard-luck traveling magician, but the title could mean the director himself: Sylvain Chomet, the French animator and re-animator of lost eras, who brings Jacques Tati to wondrous and sparkling life. Tati, who died in 1982, wrote the screenplay for this film but never made it. He intended it for live action. As the story goes, his daughter Sophie Tatischeff still had the script and handed it to Sylvain Chomet, who made the miraculously funny animated film "The Triplets of Belleville" (2003). Roger Ebert describet Chomet’s work in these words: “Chomet has drawn it with a lightness and beauty worthy of an older, sadder Miyazaki story. Animation suits it. Live action would overwhelm its delicate fancy with realism.” (“Cicago Sun Times, January 12, 2011) J. Hoberman adds: “No less impressive than Chomet’s character animation is his sense of timing. For its 80 minutes, the movie creates the illusion that not just Tati but his form of cerebral slapstick lives.” (“The Village Voice”, Wednesday, Dec 22 2010). "The Illusionist", in many ways, resembles the work of Charlie Chaplin too. Since there is a man and a child, you simply have to think of "The Kid" (1921). You also have to think of "City Lights" (1931). In that movie Chaplin tries to help a poor blind girl. Here of course Tatischeff provides for a young orphan. And finally Chaplin's "Limelight" (1952) about a music hall performer who now must face he is a has-been and helps restore a young dancer. It is "Limelight" that "The Illusionist" resembles most.


All in all it is another wonderful peace of art and it is definitely worth to see. Sylvain Chomet surprises again with his sophisticated, comic, and characteristic style.

1 Amy Biacolli “San Francisko Chronicle” Friday, January 14, 2011
2 Roger Ebert "Chicago Sun Times", January 12, 2011
3 J. Hoberman “The Village Voice”, Wednesday, Dec 22 2010
1 Tatischeff character sheets
2 Environments
3 A man and a girl

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