The Illusionist (Sylvain Chomet, 2010)

03Jul11

Directed by Sylvain Chomet. Rating: PG. Running time: 80 minutes.

Aesthetically delightful but narratively a little dull, I do not know nor have the curiosity to find out the details of the history surrounding The Illusionist, and its origins in a letter by an apparently famous filmmaker from the 50s suggestive of a screenplay. The virtues here are simple and easily appreciable regardless: the animation is of a sketchy, quirky, but magical kind, reminiscent of Miyazaki and every bit as beautiful as the still above suggests. The film is largely set in Edinburgh, with periods in Paris, London and a small Scottish town beforehand, but it is the former that is especially apt in its Gothic architecture for this style of drawing, coming across particularly grand in the animated, pattering heavy rain at night with the swooning street lamps.

It’s a bold and original effort also in another respect – rarely nowadays do you see silent movies that ditch the opportunity for any dialogue of significance, instead opting for silence bar sound effects and the odd unintelligible French muttering, relying on the animated visuals alone to tell the story. The product is difficulty quiet, and a little frustrating, almost as if we’re watching a cute-ified and older animated Mr. Bean, given the nature of the unfortunate and clumsy main character. It’s supposed to be a touching tale of a magician losing the power in his performances and taking solace in a friendship with a young, appreciative little girl, and perhaps the warmer-hearted will admire the minor tragedy of it all. But this colder critic found it hard to connect. Just focus on those visuals, instead. This film would be just as good given to me as a book of stills.

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