The Illusionist: the misfit magician

I planned to go see a different film and ended up not being able to resist the temptation to see this animated French one called “The Illusionist.”  I also remembered it was on the Oscar list for Best Animated Feature, so that gave me a little push, too. “The Illusionist” was created by Sylvain Chomet, who also did another ingenious animation called “The Triplets of Belleville.”  His second feature comes with a story originally created by Jacques Tati, a French filmmaker known for his comedies and depiction of consumeristic modern societies. The main character — Tatischeff — is a magician in a world that no longer appreciates this old trade.  After he gets fired from the theater, he leaves his town in search of audiences who still believe in magic.   He travels with his obese white rabbit to Paris and many other places only to find that most people have replaced their taste for magic with other things, like rock concerts.  The world of entertainment is changing along with people’s interests. Tatischeff was created with Jacques Tati in mind, and anyone can see what a fun and absurd character Tati himself must have been.  Just like in Tati’s films, “The Illusionist” does not play around with dialogue very much. Most communication is done through actions and different types of sound. This also comes as a tribute to Tati’s films — Tati was a mime and developed his world without many words. It makes me happy that Chomet took Jacques Tati’s screenplay and turned it into an animated spectacle, but I cannot help thinking about how wonderful a live-action version might look under the right guidance.