(out of 5)
Original title: L’Illusioniste
Sylvain Chomet, whose previous film The Triplets Of Belleville was an unqualified masterpiece, returns to the forefront of artistic success with this similarly styled but much more intensely personal film. Based on an unproduced screenplay by Jacques Tati, it tells the story of a magician (designed quite effectively after the master himself) whose glory days are behind him and who must survive by taking whatever work he can find. After a successful run at a Scottish pub, the illusionist goes to Edinburgh and, en route, discovers that the sweet young chambermaid at the inn he had stayed at has stowed along with him, inspired by the pair of pretty red shoes he purchased for her. Now our protagonist has two mouths to feed, and with the popularity of his manner of vaudeville entertainment waning must look for other kinds of work besides what is available on stage. The film resembles Triplets in that it has very little dialogue, features characters drawn to physical extremes and is full of the kind of witty visual humour that Tati’s films were best known for, but it also has a beautiful level of bittersweet melancholy that is new for Chomet. It doesn’t leave you with the soaring feeling of having seen something magnificent, it creeps into you and breaks your heart very quietly. None of Tati’s produced films ever had this level of pathos, so it makes one wonder if he never filmed it because he didn’t have the chance before his passing or if he never quite mustered up the courage; either way, seeing him animated to such perfection brings the great artist back to life in the most wonderful way.
Directed by Sylvain Chomet
Screenplay by Sylvain Chomet, based on an original screenplay by Jacques Tati
Music by Sylvain Chomet
Production Design by Bjarne Hansen
Film Editing by Sylvain Chomet