After a children-oriented animated movie Gnomeo & Juliet, I watched an animated movie geared towards adults, The Illusionist as the second movie from the 2011 Bigpond Adelaide Film Festival. No, not that kind of “adult-oriented”, but children may think that the movie is lacking in bright colours and happy faces. It doesn’t have talking animals, princes nor princesses.
The story is written by Jacques Tati – one of France’s greatest exports to the world of cinema. Some say that the story is his love letter to his daughter, as an expression of love and guilt for being away far too often and too long. The director of the movie is Sylvain Chomet, who also directs The Triplets of Belleville – and although the images and the animation seems ‘oldworldly’, I find the movie very enchanting and atmospheric. It’s like watching water painting comes alive – when it rains, you can almost feel the gloominess and the humidity, and when the characters walk around in Edinburgh, it’s as if you were just across the road, watching them as the story unfolds. No CGI wizardry, no funky effects, just charming storytelling even when the movie has barely any conversations at all!
The Illusionist tells a story of an animated version of Tati, who goes from one theatre building to the next, performing his magic tricks. With the arrival of pop bands, he has to venture to smaller halls and pubs, playing to audience who still appreciate the entertainment. On one of the trips to the north of Scotland, he meets a young helper who ends up coming with her to Edinburgh. The magician is very keen to please the girl with the things that she desires – a new coat, a new pair of shoes, a new dress … even money from time to time, as she thinks that he can conjure things from thin air. The truth is, he has to work elsewhere to support themselves, and in the end he even has to sell everything. I will not reveal the ending, but it is quite touching in a way and also reminds the viewers that every magic has its cost.