Writer/director Sylain Chromet drew inspiration for The Illusionist, his follow-up to the Oscar-nominated animated feature The Triplets of Belleville, from an unproduced 1956 script by French filmmaker Jacques Tati. The story follows “The Illusionist” (fashioned after Tati himself) as he learns to accept the fading status of his art and meets young Alice, who “changes his life forever.”
From my limited exposure to Tati’s work, the animated likeness is a spot-on homage to the his particular brand of silent physical comedy, and accessed a nostalgia I was previously unaware of. Check out the lovely trailer after the jump.
The Illusionist is one of a dying breed of stage entertainers. With emerging rock stars stealing his thunder, he is forced to accept increasingly obscure assignments in fringe theatres, at garden parties and in bars and cafés. However, whilst performing in a village pub off the west coast of Scotland, he encounters Alice, an innocent young girl, who will change his life forever.
Watching his performance to the excited villagers who are celebrating the arrival of electricity to their remote island, Alice becomes awestruck by our hero and believes his tricks are real magic. Following him to Edinburgh, she keeps his home while he goes to work in a small local theatre. Enchanted by her enthusiasm for his act, he rewards her with increasingly lavish gifts he has ‘conjured’ into existence. Desperate not to disappoint her, he cannot bring himself to reveal that magic does not exist and that buying these gifts is driving him to ruin.
But as Alice comes of age, she finds love and moves on. The Illusionist no longer has to pretend and, untangled from his own web of deceit, resumes his life as a travelling entertainer, a much wiser man.
The Illusionist is starting to show in international theaters, with a UK premiere on June 16th at the Edinburgh Film Festival. The film will hit American theaters later this year thanks to Sony Pictures Classics.
Check out some images from The Illusionist here.