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The Illusionist [DVD]

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Product details

  • Actors: Jean-Claude Donda, Eilidh Rankin, Duncan MacNeil, Raymond Mearns, James T. Muir
  • Directors: Sylvain Chomet
  • Format: PAL
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 16:9 - 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: PG
  • Studio: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: 14 Feb. 2011
  • Run Time: 77 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (113 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0049U3R0C
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,778 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)


Product Description

The Illusionist is one of a dying breed of stage entertainers. With emerging rock stars stealing his thunder in the late 1950s, he is forced to accept increasingly obscure assignments in fringe theatres, at garden parties and in bars and cafés. However, whilst performing in a village pub off the west coast of Scotland, he encounters Alice, an innocent young girl, who will change his life forever.

The Illusionist is a love letter from a father to his daughter. For Sophie Tatischeff, the daughter of Jacques Tati, comedy genius and French cinema legend, this touching correspondence could not be left undelivered. Catalogued in the CNC (Centre National de la Cinématographie) archives under the impersonal moniker ‘Film Tati Nº 4’, this un-produced script has waited half a century for hands to flick through its pages and realize its potential. Those eager hands belonged to Sylvain Chomet, the Oscar nominated and critically acclaimed creator of The Triplets of Belleville/Belleville Rendezvous, who enthusiastically rose to the challenge to fulfil an impossible dream--to once again bring the magic of the incomparable Jacques Tati to life.


The Illusionist (2010) is director Sylvain Chomet's homage to French writer-director-actor Jacques Tati, whose work he's loved for years: the three beldams in Chomet's The Triplets of Belleville even watch a clip from Tati's Jour de Fête in bed. Based on a script Tati wrote but never produced, the film focuses on a sleight-of-hand magician whose career founders as television and rock and roll supplant traditional entertainment. During a trip to a remote village in Scotland--where pub goers still appreciate his act--the magician encounters Alice, a teenage girl who works as a maid. When he departs, Alice follows him to Edinburgh, seeking a more glamorous life. In addition to his stage gigs, the Illusionist works at various odd jobs to support Alice, whom he treats as an adopted daughter. Like Triplets (and Tati's classic comedies), The Illusionist is told with only minimal dialogue. However, in place of the manic energy of Triplets, The Illusionist is permeated with a wistful melancholy for a fading era, a fading talent, and, ultimately, a fading relationship. The animation is more polished than in Chomet's previous films: a sequence of the drunken magician teetering around the lobby of a broken-down hotel is brilliantly drawn. The backgrounds of Edinburgh are beautifully rendered. The Illusionist won awards from several critics' groups in the United States, but it lacks the purity of vision of Triplets. The film represents a combination of Tati's and Chomet's sensibilities, rather than the pure work of either artist. It's a lovely film, but viewers expecting the take-no-prisoners absurdity of Triplets of Belleville will be disappointed. (Rated PG for thematic elements and smoking) --Charles Solomon

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 27 people found the following review helpful By S. Millman on 24 Mar. 2011
Format: DVD
Don't get me wrong, I love Sylvain Chomet. Belleville Rendezvous is a masterpiece, one of the greatest animated films of all time. I was so excited when The Illusionist was announced, and from the previews it looked just as amazing.
And it is beautiful - the style is somewhat different from Belleville but in a lovely way. The backgrounds look like pen and ink wash, and the characters are, as always, wonderful caricatures.
However, I was disappointed - and it's hard not to be, with such high expectations after Belleville. I felt I was drawn more to the supporting cast than to the illusionist and his "assistant", who were slightly dull compared to the fascinating characters living in the background. There were times as well where I felt the silence was very forced: while in Belleville I caught myself not even noticing that they weren't speaking, there were moments here where it was painful. This story, I thought, was a little too complex to tell with meaningful looks alone, especially when there were so few close-ups or deviations from the standard long shot. Perhaps it's because I am not familiar with Tati's work, but I just didn't get it.
My final gripe is in the animation itself, where at some points the animation is assisted with 3D software. While I understand it makes the process easier, it was jarring and did not blend well with the hand-made feel of the rest of the film. This is particularly evident when the train passes over water or some of the scenes including cars. The animation didn't need to be that realistic - in fact the background work was quite stylized in places - so why they chose to do this is beyond me. It is not impossible to animate water or cars in 2D - old Disney movies are an obvious example - so why not do so?
But that's an incredibly picky point.
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141 of 144 people found the following review helpful By hillbank68 TOP 500 REVIEWER on 31 Oct. 2010
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This is a most unusual film, and I think a most successful one. It may well not be to everyone's taste, but it's hard to believe that any watchful viewer could miss the skill, sensitivity and freshness with which it has been made. It's based on an unused Jacques Tati story. It is set in the late 1950s. A skilled French music-hall 'illusionist' whose gentle art is being supplanted by brasher entertainments, travels to Scotland where he is spotted by a drunken Islands laird who takes him to his Island to entertain the natives. This he does very successfully - but even there newer forms are coming in (a jukebox is delivered while he is there, and the locals like it). He leaves ; but he has caught the eye of a lonely chamber-maid, Alice, perhaps 16 years old, who stows away as he departs. In Edinburgh they form a strange partnership, living together in theatrical lodgings. She reminds him I think of his daughter, whom we see in a photograph near the beginning. She cooks and tidies, he earns some money and they survive. The film, however, ends in quiet sadness (for those who have not seen the film, I cannot be specific about how). His time is really past and hers is yet to come.

The animation is absolutely terrific. It is not 'Toy Story' style at all - I don't really know what style it is - but it recreates the Highlands and Islands, the music hall, Edinburgh 60 years ago with enormous skill. It is a wonder to watch. It is a subtle film too, and there are many gentle details which underline the themes or the relationship between the illusionist and the girl. It's quite a short film, but you watch every moment.
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35 of 36 people found the following review helpful By RA White on 8 Nov. 2010
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
WOW! I am amazed at how much controversy this film seems to be evoking on this here site.

I for one really like this film.

Let me make it clear, I love Jacques Tati, one of my all time favourite film-makers - and I'll love him 'til the day I die! But, I also like Sylvain Chomet's work, notably Belleville Rendezvous.

The Illusionist is obviously not a Jacques Tati film, it is based on a script by him which he never used, and is a homage to him. OK, Chomet has taken a few liberties with the original script - such as setting it in Edinburgh (as opposed to Prague, as in the original screenplay), and a few more besides. But then this project was always going to be an amalgamation of one film-maker with another (or, more likely Tati's style, and personification, filtered through Chomet's vision). The finished result of this is not going to fulfill everyone...

[Side note: A.I. was filmed by Steven Speilberg based on an unfinished Stanley Kubrik project, and it seemed to also heavily divide opinion, amongst some fans and critics. I feel The Illusionist may well be a similar creature, in that some will love it, some will loathe it (Marmite, anyone?)]

For me, I am happy to see Tati's gangly frame evoked once more on celluloid; and, although I also acknowledge that the film is a flawed one based on this premise alone, I believe that the strength of the animation, combined with some wonderful characterization (I love the cantankerous rabbit!) balances it out enough to be an enjoyable, if mildly twee, piece of work. Tati would undoubtedly have filmed it differently in so many ways, but he never did, did he.

Tati only ever made 6 full feature films in his life. This is not number 7.
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