Sylvain Chomet’s delightful follow-up to 2003’s The Triplets of Belleville is another exquisitely animated film, one based on an unproduced script by the French comic genius Jacques Tati (which was given to Chomet by Tati’s own daughter). The Illusionist is set in the early 1960s, the time when Tati wrote the screenplay after his huge success with Mon Oncle (1958). As an homage to the source material, Chomet’s title character is the spitting image of Tati. This middle-aged, slightly stoop-shouldered magician is upstaged by his rabbit during performances in Paris; at his shows his London, the Illusionist can’t begin to compete with a wildly popular proto-Beatles band. But he finds far more appreciative audiences in small pubs in Scotland—and makes a devoted teenage friend, Alice, a poor cleaning girl who follows him to Edinburgh. The two form a touching father-daughter bond, with the Illusionist determined to secretly provide Alice with the nice clothes she so admires—finery that isn’t procured through magic, but through a series of funny odd jobs that the conjurer takes. Though neither the magician nor his young charge speak each other’s language, The Illusionist, like Tati’s work, beautifully shows the ways people understand each other non verbally.
Best Animated Feature – César Awards (2011)
Best Animated Film – New York Film Critics Circle (2010)