21 July 2011

The Illusionist

(I'm talking about the animated one that came out last year)

I was looking forward to this one. I figured the director of Triplets of Belleville directing a Jacques Tati scripted film was bound to be lovely. And indeed, there are a lot of lovely things about it. The animation is beautiful (I'm still unclear as to whether the original script was for animation or live action, and I'm really curious). The film moves at a languid pace, with almost no dialogue (I'm not sure if the subtitles weren't turned on or there just weren't any), but it's a pleasurable sort of experience, for the most part. Unfortunately, the plot isn't all that compelling. And because it's so sparse, a lot of the nuance was lost on me.

There are basically two major "stories" here. One is that the illusionist is gradually becoming obsolete, along with other circus performers. The other is that a young woman sort of attaches herself to him (the wiki entry on the film says that it's because she believes he has supernatural powers. I don't think that was at all clear in the film), and he buys her presents and has this odd sort of friendship with her. It's hardly a spoiler to tell you that they ultimately part ways for the exact reason you would guess they do. The first of the two plots, I have a lot of sympathy for, and I appreciated, but it's not really enough to carry a film. The second, I enjoyed less. The relationship between the two of them is nice enough - there's something really appealing to me about the kind of companionship that develops between older men and younger women - but its gradual dissolution is too hastily sketched, and somewhat cliche. Apparently, the movie is a kind of love letter from Tati to his estranged daughter. If that's true, it's odd, because you definitely start to resent the young woman in this movie.

Overall, I do not regret having seen it, it wasn't wasted time, but I did feel a bit let down. It's very pretty, but in the grand scheme of things, there are better versions of this kind of movie out there.

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