The Illusionist is both pure Tati and guaranteed Chomet (critical)

The Illusionist is both pure Tati and guaranteed Chomet (critical)

In the middle of the Annecy festival, France 4 is rebroadcasting quality animated films.

In 2003, The Triplets of Bellevilleanimated film for adults and in 2D, signed Sylvain Chomet, caused a sensation at the Oscars (nominated for Best Animated Feature and Best Song). After this success, the director moved to Scotland, where he opened his own animation studios: Django Films. It was there that the Frenchy designed a new animated film in the vein of Triplets: The Illusionist.

It is actually based on a screenplay of Jacques Tati, never shot. Hence this striking resemblance between the main character and the filmmaker. But Sylvain Chomet does not stop there: he has sought to adopt the master’s visual style, favoring wide shots over close-ups.

In 2010, the film even had the luxury of becoming the most expensive cinematographic project in the history of Scotland (11 million euros budget). As a result, when the film producer, Bob Lastexplained to the Herald Scotland how The Illusionist was a challenge, we couldn’t help but take his word for it: “It’s a huge challenge from a technical and creative point of view, not only because 2D films no longer have a hand in animation. But especially in terms of character animation and attention to details”.

While the 2023 Annecy International Animation Film Festival is in full swing, France 4 is rebroadcasting this film, which had conquered First at its output. Here is our double review.

Emilie Lefort’s opinion : Eight years later The Triplets of Belleville, Sylvain Chomet decides to pay tribute to Jacques Tati. Based on a screenplay by the filmmaker, we follow an old magician confronted with the changes of his time (the arrival of rock). For Chomet, it is the means of paying his due to the artist who has influenced him the most, but it is above all a way of opposing two forms of cinema. The almost non-existent dialogue, the predominance of music and gesture, the slowness of the story pay homage to burlesque. Contrary to what animation and the emergence of 3D offer us today (flashy aesthetics, with a scenario and a supposedly incisive cut). So, if we rediscover the Tati of My uncle or of Mr Hulotit is above all another form of cinema that Chomet reinvents, an art of poetry and tenderness.

Christophe Narbonne’s opinion: Produced with the blessing of the guardians of the temple (late Sophie Tatischeff and Jérôme Deschamps), The Illusionist achieves the prodigy of being both pure Tati and guaranteed Chomet: the sense of detail and the frame of one, borderline supporting roles and initiatory stories of the other. Not to mention a common attraction for silent cinema, for a form of aesthetic achievement and for catchy melodies. Everything to please, you say? Yes, except that the thinness and the obsolescence of the plot (nothing unexpected) end up becoming a source of frustration, almost boredom.

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