The Illusionist (Sony)
Sylvain Chomet (of the delirious The Triplets of Belleville) transforms an unproduced script by French auteur Jacques Tati (Mon Oncle) into a tender tale of a French magician and a Scottish girl in the theater-folk society of London as the old world of stage performance gives way to the new theater of rock and roll. They don’t even speak the same language, not that words are the currency of communication in this film, a delicate and delightful piece of old-fashioned hand-drawn animation where character is in body language and personality in the “performance.”
Chomet doesn’t just adapt Tati’s script, he models his lanky magician Tatischeff on Tati’s own distinctive screen character and performance style. And while he has his own approach to staging screen comedy, Chomet shares Tati’s preference to playing scenes out in full shots and long takes where his characters can fill the world with their presence. His screen Tati evokes the original beautifully while creating a unique animated character in its right. As the title suggests, the magic here is all illusion, a matter of sleight of hand and stagecraft, but Chomet reminds us that theater and art creates its own brand of magic. Chomet’s brand of animated magic earned the film an Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Feature.