Tuesday, June 15, 2010

EIFF Premiere: "The Illusionist" (2010)

"The Illusionist" is most notably a hand drawn 2-D visual pleasure. The detail and attention to lighting and color across an expanse of landscapes is remarkably breathtaking plus one amazing swirling 3-D shot from the top of Arthur's Seat.

The film's opening alone is heartwarming as we watch a bumbling and modest-looking illusionist perform in front of audiences that consist of just a few bored spectators. We follow this struggling performer from the streets of Paris to London, Glasgow and, finally, the awe inspiring landscape of Edinburgh where most of the tale takes place.

There is little to no dialogue with only short exchanges of gibberish mumblings in a variety of languages. This becomes fitting, however, as the small girl the illusionist picks up in his travels doesn't even speak his language. Their interaction, and as a result the film itself, becomes poetically simple and beyond any needed verbal communication.

The illusionist unintentionally shows the girl a world of magic where he can seemingly make wonderful possessions appear before her eyes. But since it is not that simple, the illusionist finds himself attempting smaller menial jobs for extra money. Meanwhile all around him he watches failing performers and entertainers.

The girl is left with a note saying, "Magicians do not exist," and in that notion, the film becomes a contemplation on the possibility of finding magic in one's life. Even among the despair by the story's end, there is a glimmer of hope with instances of magic that don't even require fabrication.

While whimsical and charming, "The Illusionist" also holds undertones of deep, aching sadness. Such a mood is accompanied by a beautiful musical score by the director himself, Sylvain Chomet. This is the director's second animated feature after the Academy Award-nominated "The Triplets of Belleville." If luck has it, this film will hopefully find itself in a similar position because it's definitely worthy.

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