“The Illusionist” becomes a masterpiece second time around

By Shannon Scheidell
sscheidell@valenciavoice.com

Sylvain Chomet must have spent the past eight years, since his last film was released, honing his artistic skills in both music and animation direction, because The Illusionist” is a cultural masterpiece.

Originally written years before by Jacques Tatischeff, famous for his work in “Mon Oncle” (1958) and “Play Time” (1967,) Chomet took over the reins and breathed new life into the creation, utilizing the technology of today while playing on the characteristics of older foreign titles.

The main character is an older man, working his way through the dwindling market magicians faced during 1959. He seems contented enough to travel the world, from act to measly act, until he stays in an inn one day in Scotland. Here a young girl, Alice, becomes immediately taken by his performance.

During his stay, she scurries around the cozy little cottage in torn and creaky boots. Her innocence and hospitality soon charm him into buying her a new pair of red clogs that fit her perfectly.

Soon, it’s time for the Illusionist to leave, so Alice surprises him in boarding the train a seat across from him, with a telling glance in his direction. He surprises her, in exchange, with a flick of the wrist to produce a ticket for her to tag along. From then on, the two are as inseparable as a father and daughter under constrained circumstances.

On the topic of production, “The Illusionist” blends 2-D hand-drawn animations while using a computer to render some scenes scanned in 3-D. In one scene, wavering flowers are bobbing along gracefully to the rhythm of the wind, strung about a hill where Alice picks a bouquet, all while rolling clouds overhead bring interchanging views of darkness and light to play on the countryside.

One devout Tati fan, Richard Stracke of examiner.com, felt the film was a disgrace to the screenwriter’s name, however.

“That the film came to fruition at all is justification for any artist to consider burning their manuscripts on their deathbed,” he writes.

More glamorous live-action movies have failed to drag fans into a story, as much as they were sure that they had walked the city streets with Alice on those longs nights and sat in an otherwise empty theater, watching the Illusionist work his magic.