As the world grows tired of music-hall magic performances, The Great Tatischef takes his failing show on the road to Scotland, where he impresses a young girl with a few simple gifts, given with an illusionist’s flourish. She, convinced he is a real magician, follows him to Edinburgh, but as time goes on the naive girl expects more and more extravagant, ‘magical’ gifts, and not wanting to lose her respect and awe Tatischef must take on any number of night jobs to supplement his meager income, so he can afford said gifts, but, alas, reality catches up to everybody.
I freely admit that the synopsis for The Illusionist doesn’t immediately inspire excitement, and to be fare, a film this strange makes pinning down a synopsis at all kind of difficult, but those few of us that saw French director Sylvain Chomet’s previous animated outing, Belleville Rendez-Vous (AKA The Triplets of Belleville), know that an original, inventive, and visually bizarre experience is probably waiting for us.
And so it is. In fact, I found The Illusionist to be superior to Belleville in every respect. It may in actual fact be one of the most original animated films in the last half decade. The story is so concise that it requires almost no dialogue, the animation is exquisite and the entire thing defies any kind of genre labeling. It is truly a film of duplicity. While the animation looks rough and the colours washy, it is, in reality, incredibly detailed. Though it seems like not too much is happening we are fed a wealth of nuanced information concerning the characters, their emotions and the times they inhabit, and while a light touch is retained for the entire running time a layer of heartbreak is never far from the surface.
If you can catch The Illusionist at the cinema I strongly urge you to do so, and if not, buy it on its release. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
A grade – for animation
B+ grade – for storytelling
A grade – for originality
Overall grade – A