Film Review: L'illusionniste

Copyright: Sony Pictures Classics
Sometimes a movie in which only a dozen understandable sentences are exchanged is enough to remind us about the existence of cinematic magic.

L' illusionniste (The Illusionist) is an animated film from 2010. It is based on a screenplay by Jacques Tati, a French actor and director, who was, several decades ago was, a very influential figure in the film world. Apparently, he wrote the story as a letter to his estranged daughter, with no clear idea of what kind of movie it will turn out to be (if any). But, the origin story of the movie is a little blurry, so this might be just a tall tale. Even if it is not true, I'm sure that work successfully addresses so many real feelings because of the obvious personal stamp that resulted from the difficult relationship between Tati and his child. This film, made nearly 30 years after Tati's death, is a great tribute to parenthood, no matter in what circumstances it reveals itself.

In 1959, an older gentleman, self-employed as a magician and an illusionist, leaves Paris and proceeds to London to revive his stagnant career. There, he performs at a private party where he meets a drunken Scotsman who is amazed with his craft. He invites him to travel back to Scottish highland and gives a few shows. The Illusionist agrees, and there, in the hills of rural Scotland, he meets a girl, who is also completely captivated by him. Soon, she decides to follow him to Edinburgh, where they both have to get used to the new circumstances of their shared life - the village girl lost in a big city, and an artist getting lost in the onslaught of a new era of electric entertainment.

Full of melancholy and driven by a very gentle pace, the film acts as a prophecy that will see this unusual roommates separated. Without words, the director Sylvain Chomet shows in classical animation style the illusionist's oddity and kindness, and the way he stands out in a lot rougher and more calculated world. The team that created this movie deserves a lot of praise, especially for the exterior imagery, whether it comes to barren pastures of Scotland or big city skylines from the 50's.

Equal drama and comedy, L' illusionniste tells its story in a so measured that I found myself completely disconnected from any kind of intellectual processing of the plot and events in the film, and was following it on pure emotional response. Its non-verbal narration carries the viewer on, slowly but surely. Its atmosphere is sad and cheerful at the same time, and beautifully presents the process of disagreements and separation of two human beings.

This is a fantastic movie, accompanied by almost no emotional noise and ambiguities that spoken words often carry. It talks about relationships and the indescribable warmth that they generate, even in the moments when they end.

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