Movie Review – L’Illusionniste (The Illusionist)

Animation is something that has always been entertaining and that’s why I’ve taken the time to write about the different installments in that film genre which I’ve been lucky enough to see and enjoy.

With the 83rd annual Academy Awards approaching – where they hand out the Oscars for those outside the know – I felt like seeing their nominations in the way of animation.

Alright, I don’t want you to assume I actually keep up with that stuff. I get emails from the Angelika theater about what’s showing and why. When I noticed they’re showing a foreign Animation made by the director of The Triplets of Belleville, I thought to myself why not? and jumped right on it.

Caution: Minor Rabbit Trail

The IllusionistThat movie, The Triplets…, was pretty good – what I mean to say is the animation was great! I just didn’t get the movie at all. The characters weren’t all that likable and the story left me wanting something a little more (however the song from the film is still stuck in my head. It’s catchy although hard to understand).

But it’s been a few years now that I’ve become more open to different animation styles and story’s. It hasn’t been too easy for me to admit that Ralph Bakshi is even a great animator but… he is. Revolutionary, could describe his style; a merging of live action with animation. In his day, he took animation back to its roots with adult themed situations, while keeping the themes relevant to the  modern times they represented which is a big old plus in my book. Always controversial and misunderstood.

Minor Rabbit Trail: End

Since I love both animation and foreign films I decided to take a look at the movie: L’Illusionniste or what we here in the states and for those that speak English in general would naturally call The Illusionist. I didn’t know anything about the film so this is all based solely on my experience and perception. Neat huh?

What I have to say might shock you if you haven’t seen the film and I’ll try my hardest not to spoil anything but this movie is – for lack of a better word – beautiful. I’m not saying the animation and the artistry of it was, in limitation, what made this film immaculate; it was very well paced, well written and an all around wonderful experience. That’s not something I say lightly; I would normally reserve such expressions of “awe” for the experiences had with the different Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli films I have seen. The difference: this movie had great build up and kept you there. It didn’t boast of anything that it couldn’t fulfill.

Leaving Paris

The film, set initially in Paris, 1959, is about a man who is a vaudeville performer, a Magician – or Illusionist, naturally. He’s an older man I’d place in his late 40’s. Yes, that’s what I would call “older”.

He doesn’t seem to have much luck with entertaining people or drawing in the crowds anymore and his “assistant” is a vicious animal that causes him more trouble than he can really afford.

Waiting on “Billy Boy and the Britoons” to finish their set.

You’re not given any back story so you really don’t know why this man insists on doing this job; maybe it was a dream he had as a child and he’s living it out. Some things in the film hint at this but it’s mostly left open to interpretation which is a great feat in any method of storytelling.

Another train ride.
An example of the beautiful animation. Sorry the quality isn’t that great.

As long as you can lead an audience and gently let them drift off into their own conclusion and still manage to keep everyone happy then you’ve done a great job. The score by Sylvain Chomet is amazing, fitting and filling every scene to perfection, and rightly so! – Since he’s the director.

When I first watched this movie I felt like it was a sad story, but I watched it again and felt better about it. It’s easy to feel bad for the main character because he looks so pathetic and you can tell he loves what he does but I couldn’t help feel that he was sabotaging himself more than anything, greedy people or not.

Curious Alice
Alice wandering about.

The characters are all alike in the way of “dreams” it seems: they all have them and are trying to pursue them. Some of them manage to make it outside their professions and make ends meet but there are those that still suffer for their passions and professions and it’s worth noting how well L’Illusionniste is able to convey that.Scotsman
“The Illusionist” is a great film for people of all ages. It surpasses its directors predecessor The Triplets of  Belleville by leaps, bounds and class. It does however contain scenes of drinking and rock-and-roll so if you’re the type that’s easily offended by this then you should probably skip it until you are open to the fact that people do this and it’s normal. If for no other reason watch this movie so you can know that Magicians do, indeed exist.

Thanks for reading!



6 thoughts on “Movie Review – L’Illusionniste (The Illusionist)

  1. I really enjoyed your blog. Its always nice when you read something that is both informative and entertaining. Excellent.

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