Telluride Review: Sylvain Chomet's Animated 'The Illusionist'

September 7, 2010

The Illusionist

Back in late 2003, I caught a wacky French animated film that had made its way to my local theater and was getting considerable buzz. It was called The Triplets of Belleville and was an amusing tale directed by French animator Sylvain Chomet. Seven years later Chomet is back with his latest film, The Illusionist, another amusing and wholly entertaining animated film about an illusionist stage entertainer at the end of his time. It's a wonderfully charming story adapted from a screenplay written by the late Jacques Tati and may even be better than The Triplets of Belleville. Or at least I will admit that I enjoyed watching this just a bit more.

What's so wonderfully fascinating about Chomet's films are that he doesn't use any dialogue to tell the story, just a few sounds clips here and there and the actions of the various characters. The Illusionist is once again a very beautiful film done in his unique, hand-drawn animation style, which allows for the imagery to draw you in to the story. We follow the entertainer as he leaves France for London, at first, only to be upstaged by a Beatles-like band. When he plays a show at a party full of drunks, a Scottish fanatic hires him to perform at his bar. In that small town he meets a young girl that takes a liking to him after he buys her a new pair of shoes. She follows him and the two end up together in Edinburgh where they try to make a meager living.

It's a very charming, very entertaining, and very moving animated film, which is surprising considering the lack of dialogue, but that's what is so impressive. Everyone who sees it is guaranteed to leave with a smile on their face and a warmth in their heart. I love the beauty of Chomet's films, but sometimes he turns a few of the characters into caricatures that are a just a little too wacky, so much so that it feels like it's bordering on being campy when it doesn't need to be. But despite those occasional over-the-top moments, the charming story is what makes this such a tremendous success for Chomet as his follow-up to The Triplets of Belleville.

If you're a fan of Chomet and/or enjoyed The Triplets of Belleville, then The Illusionist is required viewing, no questions asked. But I encourage anyone who can admire and appreciate a beautiful animated film with a heartwarming story to check this out. Even if you're not amused by the story, which is impossible for anyone with a heart, you'll certainly appreciate its immense beauty and the storytelling prowess of Sylvain Chomet.

Alex's Telluride Rating: 9 out of 10

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Reader Feedback - 8 Comments


The Triplets of Belleville is my favorite animation, I can not wait for this to hit uk cinemas, hopefully a film festival near me soon. 🙂

anthony shields on Sep 7, 2010


Ive been trying to find out where this has been playing, I really hope to catch it!!

Voice of Reason on Sep 7, 2010


I live in Edinburgh and I've only not seen this film as it's been consistently sold out the past couple of nights. The Belleville Rendezvous/Triplets of Belleville was awesome and I can't wait to this one. @ anthony shields Find a "Picturehouse" cinema and see if it's playing there. It's out in the UK but it's only a limited release.

Square Shaped Softness on Sep 7, 2010


Cannot wait! I love this type of animation.

Xerxex on Sep 7, 2010


Re review: if they weren't a bit campy--its just be a pedestrian Disney film--it the quirkiness of his characters that sets him from the rest

dougo162 on Sep 7, 2010


I wonder what the Triplets of Belleville was about... =/

sharktopus on Sep 7, 2010


Hey Square Shaped Softness, I live in Edinburgh too, can I come roond and watch yer telly? - I love Chomet, I saw him do a talk in Edinburgh, the year he decided to move his animation studio there before the screening of the Triplets. He mentioned how he worked on a film for Disney for 4 years and they then shelved the finished film never to be seen and that's what inspired him to leave and do his own thing, which to me is much more powerful. The thing with his characters is that even though they are caricatures they are quite realistic in their features unlike a lot of cinema as a whole. I often find that French films feature characters that just wouldn't get past the casting stage anywhere else, cartoon or otherwise. Check out this really bizarre witch broom madness short from Frenchland:

Crapola on Sep 8, 2010


I think Triplettes Of Bellevue was the best animated movie I have seen in years. Not being a fan at all of Pixar style animation, and really detesting Japanese Anime' style, this was so beautifully drawn. Reminded me a CLASSIC Disney not this crappy Pixar stuff.

Patricia on Jun 24, 2011

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