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4.3 out of 5 stars135
4.3 out of 5 stars
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 31 October 2010
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. Because of its unusualness - I nearly said strangeness, which is not far off the mark - it is far more memorable than other, very successful (and indeed very good) computer-generated animations. It is, I would say, an innocent film and very easy to like, though it may be that those who prefer stuff that is more 'in your face' will feel differently. Anyway, very warmly recommended.
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on 8 November 2010
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. But faced with the choice of it existing (having been interpreted by Chomet, and brought to life in the medium of animation), or not existing - and being left on a shelf - then I am glad it exists. It makes me happy. You're opinion is your own, but I feel sure it can only be made by making your own judgement.

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on 24 March 2011
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. While I am being quite critical, it is simply because it's Chomet. If this was anyone else or someone's debut, this is a fantastic film and I probably wouldn't have anything negative to say. But Belleville is a tough act to follow, and I don't think the Illusionist is comparable to it. It is most definitely worth seeing, and if anything it still proves that magicians are real - at least artistic ones.
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on 10 December 2010
How often do you watch a film in the cinema and wonder when you'll be able to buy the dvd before the credits have even finished?
I even contemplated just sitting in the cinema and watching the film all over again.
It is simply a masterpiece, and in years to come may become regarded as one of the greatest animated films ever made. Sumptuous to look at, I suspect I will be rewinding certain shots just in awe - especially the panorama of a wintry Edinburgh.

Given that this is "simply" moving drawings, with no dialogue, the pathos and emotion that the plot manages to convey is pretty-much literally tear-jerking. Incredibly, Chomet also avoids any trace of anything even remotely sinister, which given the nature of the story, and its origins in "more innocent" times, is a massive achievement.
Truly stunningly beautiful, which can also be easily said of Belleville Rendezvous, but this is much more naturalistic in every sense.

I really feel Jacques Tati would be very moved by and immeasurably proud of this.
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on 4 April 2011
I have mixed feelings about this movie; I'm a fan of animation in general but good animation (and this is) is not enough to carry a film. The cel animation is marvellous; in places simply beautiful...especially the Highland scenery. It looks like some of the cityscapes are 3d graphics rendered to look like cel animation. The 'look' of the film was great, but the story is very slight. But this is a 'Hulot' film, and nothing much ever happened in his movies. You either love them, or wonder what the fuss was about. So I was left loving the graphic style and charm of this very low key movie, but feel it may only appeal to 'Hulot' and animation fans, like me.
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on 30 April 2011
I love good animation. I love silent film. I adored Belleville Rendezvous. This is beautiful, but I simply couldn't engage with it. I don't need lots and lots of incident, but I do need the characters to grip me. Those in this film don't. They are simply too inexpressive. The body language of the dog in Belleville Rendezvous said far more than the gestures of any of the human characters in this film. The settings have a fabulous sense of place and time but this shouldn't have been done at the expense of attention to gesture and character, which are only sketched in compared with the scenery, and with the characters in Belleville Rendezvous.
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on 1 January 2011
Sylvain Chomet proves himself yet again that he is one of the most talented and visionary animation directors in the world today. In The Illusionist, he manages to create a beautiful, breathtaking world, all in the glory of traditional hand drawn animation, and brings alive a beautiful and poignant relationship between a Magician and a young girl on screen. I can't wait to own this gorgeous piece of art which will be out on February 14th. Extras on this release will include, Edinburgh Film Festival Q&A with Director Sylvain Chomet (77mins), Behind the Scenes featurette (5mins) and a Photo gallery!

The Illusionist is certainly one of the best films, animated or otherwise, I've seen in recent times. It's because of filmmakers like Sylvain Chomet, that we still have faith in cinema.
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on 21 August 2011
I had to travel to Leicester from Birmingham to see this film on the screen as I was late in reading the critics' reviews. I was bowled over by it, indeed reduced to tears at the end. I watched the DVD on a bright afternoon, thinking I would be more practically minded - not so, more tissues needed! The film is beautifully wistful, and delineates at the demise of the music hall with much tender regret. There are skilful humorous touches (the rabbit and the pop group for e.g.) but the film's main emotion is one of gentle sadness. The relationship between the illusionist and the girl is beautifully portrayed as is the inevitable growing up of the girl into a young woman. The note the illusionist writes to her as a goodbye is heartbreaking! The animation is lovely, I don't know Edinburgh well but it seemed to me to catch the essence of the city, and the scenes on the Scottish island were a good contrast. As you can tell I loved it, and would heartily recommend it.
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I was raised on Jacques Tati, so to see him brought to life just one more time was a real treat.

The reviews for this film have raised a multitude of points and observations, the majority of which are valid. My own views are thus:

The film oozes charm. Like Tati's own films, the devil is in the detail and there are some delightful touches, for example the cinema scene where they are showing Tati's 'Mon Oncle'.

The plot throughout is bitter-sweet, playing on the emotions and you are on the Magician's side from the start as he is swept aside by the latest fads.

The friendship between the magician and the little girl is adoreable but I think could have been expanded a little.

The animation is lovely and different from the run of the mill films churned out across the Atlantic. Viva la Difference!

All in all, this is a delightful film - perhaps more for adults than children, but a triumph nevertheless.
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on 13 January 2011
If anyone has seen Sylvain Chomet's previous film Belleville Rendez-vous you'll know what to expect with this film. However if you haven't I would urge to see this film and then to watch Belleville as this was in my opinion one of the best films let alone animations of the year (even better than the excellent Toy Story 3).

Unlike most other animations you can feel the love and effort that has been poured into this film with every scene. Edinburgh has never looked more stunning and there is more emotion and feeling conveyed in a single look from one of the characters than a whole page of dialogue could hope to demonstrate. And ultimately that is the point of animation, it should be about telling the story as much as possible with images and and only using dialogue when it's absolutely necessary. And this films achieves that simple idea perfectly.

I won't say anything about the plot because to be honest there isn't much of one to talk about and I wouldn't want to spoil the experience. But don't let that put you off. If you're hoping for a feel good animation to switch your brain off for 90 minutes, this isn't for you. If you want to be captivating by an enchanting, genuinely moving and funny story, and to see Edinburgh like it's never been seen before, this is for you.
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