BY RICK JACKSON
The Illusionist is a poorly conceived swan song for the brilliant and funny Jacques Tati, who wrote the original screenplay before he died in 1982. Never does it try to capture the comedy he was best known for, despite the fact that the drawing of the title character looks a bit like Tati.His trademark comedic elements that distinguished his work in M. Hulot's Holiday (1953)are lost in Tne Illusionist because what you see is not as funny. Sylvain Chomet has failed to consider Tati's genius and made his latest directorial effort an extension of Triplets of Belleville which is far superior all around. The animation in The Illusionist lacks the definitions of depth in colour and tone and throughout it there is a tendency to make it look like it was a silent film in sepia tone. The beginning of The Illusionist is cleverly done as a tribute to the medium in its silent days when Chomet uses black and white as if you were going back in time. However, it's lack of consistency in maintaining the vintage look is given short shrift and you are left with a shallow example of Tati's comedic genius.
The omission of sub-titles and title cards fails to introduce the characters who, in animation, are not well rounded and you are, instead, left with a story that begins right away as if you already know how it all began.
The voices are almost so low you can't hear them. Their English is understandable but there just isn't enough. Chomet is content to let the animators do all the work without any thought of contributing to a special Tati project that could have been hailed as an international classic of its kind.
Jean-Claude Donda who supplies the voice of the illusionist is amusing enough at the beginning and he gives you a hint of the Tati magic but it comes in fits and starta.
The other voices, especially Eilidh Rankin's for Alice is so squeaky she is almost inaudible.
The fifties rock sound pre-eminent in 1959 in England is an attempt to lure nostalgia buffs but it is not anything great. It would have been better to make it come more as a parody in keeping with Tati's opinion of the changes in music but it is more Chomet's elementary reasons for infusing entertainment where the film obviously doesn't add up to Tati's vision.
The Britoons rendition of Molly Jean is not too bad but many moviegoers not old enough may miss the point of the whole film as a nostalgic trip down memory lane because Tati is not a household name anymore. The small fry who loved Rango will not care to see The Illuaionist. It would be nice to be proven wrong.
The Illusionist undermines the originality of Tati's own views of life and society that made his body of work, including Mon Oncle, Traffic and Playtime, so much fun. Chomet's latest is a derivative and inferior piece of work.
It is rated PG.
April 8, 2011
Copyright Rick Jackson 2011