First of all, I must state that this is not The Illusionist, the brilliant film from 2006 with Edward Norton and Paul Giamatti, but the French animated film The Illusionist from 2010, that also happens to be rather brilliant in its sweet way. Set in the mid-1950’s, it’s the story of a small-time illusionist who visits a tiny Scottish town, and a young female resident who believes through his kind actions that he is an actual magician. She tags along with Tatischeff the Illusionist, and they form a bond of friendship. More that this, it is, in a small way, the story of the approach of the modern era and the increasingly hard-to-please and sophisticated public. It’s a story of kindness, and the little things that one can do for almost complete strangers that make all the difference in the world.
There is very little dialogue in the film, and what there is happens to be mostly French. This almost doesn’t matter, because the meaning of the few words becomes plain as you continue to watch the film. In fact, the girl speaks a sort of Welsh and Tatischeff speaks French, but they manage to understand one another. Beautifully animated, this film looks like a watercolor book illustration done all in muted fall colors. Though slightly stylized, the movement of the characters is so realistic that after a while one forgets that they are watching an animated film at all.
Sony’s press kit states that legendary French actor/writer/director Jacques Tati, as a sort-of love letter to his estranged daughter, originally wrote The Illusionist in the 1950’s. One can sense that tenderness in this film, mostly in the special father-daughter relationship that develops between the girl and Tatischeff. The ending is a bit bittersweet in the usual French fashion, but it’s the journey that makes all the difference with this film.
Included on the Blu-ray are previews, the film’s trailer, and finally, a little featurette called “The making of The Illusionist.” The “making-of” shows artists doing line drawings, both on the computer and the old-fashioned way, with pencil and paper. Much like the film, no one speaks during the featurette; it’s all music and visuals. It’s only about two minutes long. I must say, after the melancholy ending of the film, the featurette is somehow a bummer. All in all this film is worthwhile, but it is quite contemplative, and certainly not a laugh-out-loud thriller. You must be in the right mood to see The Illusionist, but you’ll be enriched if you do.