The Illusionist 

The Illusionist has some lovely moments, but a one-note tone.

click to enlarge art13272widea.jpg
In Sylvain Chomet’s The Illusionist, an adaptation of an unproduced script by legendary French comic filmmaker Jacques Tati, nods to its creative inspiration are everywhere: in the main character’s design to resemble Tati; in the character’s name, Tatischeff, Tati’s own birth name; in the reliance on pantomime over dialogue; in a theater marquee showing the Tati classic Mon Oncle. There’s really only one place, in fact, that Tati is too little evident—in the tone of the movie itself.

Set in 1959, the story follows the struggling stage magician Tatischeff as he tries to find work in music halls from Paris to the British Isles. In one coastal town, he encounters a young woman working as a maid in the pub—and when he befriends her paternally, she joins him in traveling to his next job in Edinburgh.

That relationship—based, according to many reports, on Tati’s guilt over abandoning his first-born daughter—forms the backbone of what is otherwise a largely episodic narrative. The gorgeously stylized animation by Chomet (The Triplets of Belleville) has some lovely moments, including a shot from behind a boat heading to shore in which droplets of water appear on the camera. Mood is the master in this largely wordless tale, and Chomet unquestionably knows how to convey it.

That mood, however, can be defined mostly as “melancholy”—which doesn’t feel particularly Tati-esque. A couple of sequences easily could have come from a Monsieur Hulot adventure, including Tatischeff’s amusing struggle with his job moonlighting at a car-repair garage. But sadness permeates The Illusionist, from Tatischeff’s own financial struggles to the bleaker responses of other performers to their changes in fortune, and through to the mournful finale. As beautifully as this story is rendered, the single note of its tone does affect the experience of watching it and wondering what happened to the comedian in Tati.

THE ILLUSIONIST

click to enlarge 3_stars.gif

Animated
Rated PG

Pin It
Favorite

Tags:

More by Scott Renshaw

Latest in Film Reviews

  • Boxer Rebellion

    Hands of Stone can't carve out a distinctive space among boxing biopics.
    • Aug 24, 2016
  • Go Quest, Young Man

    Kubo and the Two Strings celebrates the power of storytelling.
    • Aug 17, 2016
  • Re-Pete Performance

    Pete's Dragon makes for a charming improvement over the original.
    • Aug 10, 2016
  • More »

Comments

Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

‚Äč

Readers also liked…

  • Where Are the Women?

    A critic's year-long deep-dive into the way movies portray one half of humanity.
    • May 11, 2016
  • Beasts of One Notion

    Zootopia depends entirely on its well-intentioned allegory about prejudice.
    • Mar 2, 2016

© 2016 Salt Lake City Weekly

Website powered by Foundation