Animation, when done well, is my favorite form of film entertainment. I love that there are no real limits — a castles can fly, a candlestick can talk, and pandas can cook noodles! A few years ago, I saw the Triplets of Belleville trailer in a movie theater and was intrigued — I wound up loving it. Completely original storyline and great music, as well as ingenious animation. When I heard that Sylvain Chomet had made another animated film, I was eager to see the new work, l’Illusioniste.
I admit, my expectations were enormous. I so enjoyed Triplets and Chomet’s short film in Paris, Je t’aime, that I just knew that The Illusionist would be great.
And it was. Thoroughly detailed, thoughtful story, wonderful animation. The story was quite simple, of a traveling magician who develops a relationship with a young girl. The nature of the relationship remains fairly ambivalent, teetering between that of love interest and father/daughter, but I’ll let you decide for yourself. True to his signature, there is almost no dialog in the film, and it instead asks its viewers to pay attention to context and emotions to determine the plot. A film that uses a mix of French and English when there are spoken words remains very easy to decipher.
My one complaint with the film was its pacing — the plot was a little too focused on the passage of the days, and therefore, it seemed to drag, even at a sparse 84 minutes. The nature of the tale is to be quiet and splendid, but the pacing would bore even the most patient of cinephiles.
All in all, I’d like to see it again (not in the theater) to digest further. And a film like this certainly merits a second viewing.