Saturday, 28 August 2010

The Illusionist

Year: 2010
Director: Sylvain Chomet
Screenplay: Jacques Tati, adapted by Sylvain Chomet
Starring (voice only): Jean-Claude Donda and Edith Rankin
Running Time: 79 minutes
Genre: Animation, comedy, drama

Summary: Paris, 1959, Tatischef (Donda) barely makes a living as a stage magician in the rapidly vanishing world of music hall. Hoping the situation will be better abroad he moves to Britain, but finds that London is in the grip of rock 'n' roll fever and, while playing a wedding, is invited by a drunken Scotsman to make his living in the Highlands. In a small town in the islands of Scotland, Tatischef is a sensation when he performs in the tiny local pub, and the landlord's daughter, Alice (Rankin), believes that he is really a magician. Alice stows away with Tatischef and the two make their way to Edinburgh, where they both have to make the choice about what they really want from life.

Summary: Okay, first of all this movie is nothing to do with the 2006 film of the same name with Edward Norton and Jessica Biel. Instead, this movie is based on an unproduced script written in 1956 by French comedian Jacques Tati, which was handed over to French animator Chomet by Tati's daughter, Sophie, in 2000 two years before her death. The script had apparently been written by Tati as an attempt to reconcile with his eldest daughter, Helga Marie-Jeanne Schiel, who he had abandoned when she was a baby, and the film has been heavily criticised by some for not including a dedication or mention of Schiel in it's credits. The screenplay was originally set in Czechoslovakia, but Chomet relocated it to Scotland, where he was working at the time the film was made. The animation is very well done with a great eye for locale and period detail, also Chomet's exagerrated style really captures the feel of the Tati films. In common with Tati's films the movie is virtually silent and that which there is is pretty difficult to make out. Tatischef speaks French and Alice speaks Gaelic and neither can understand what the other is saying. Tati was very intrested in his films having an international audience and, realising that humour rarely works in translation, he made his films almost silent, relying on elaboratly designed silent comedy set-pieces, usually involving his innocent and old-fashioned alter-egos pitted against baffling modern technology all of which is captured here, although don't expect a laugh riot, the comedy is very gentle. Focusing on the relationship between Tatischef and Alice, who have a father-daughter
relationship throughout, the movie has genuine heart.
Tati himself appears very briefly in a clip from Mon Oncle (1958) playing in a cinema. In the scene watch out for a poster advertising Chomet's own The Triplets of Belleville (2003).
The movie is well worth watching for fans of animation.

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