The Illusionist

ANIMATION; 1hr 20min

DIRECTED BY: Sylvain Chomet

Act of love: Alice and Tatischeff

Jacques Tati (Mon Oncle) and Sylvain Chomet are a paradisaical pairing: the classic master of observation given daintily hand-drawn animated life by the man behind the genius The Triplets of Belleville. Tati’s screenplay of The Illusionist, about fading, middle-aged, 1950s French magician Tatischeff (Tati’s birth name), suffering for his sly art in increasingly degrading jobs, is dialogue-light and detail-rich, which suits Chomet just fine. Playing to the peanut gallery in a Scottish inn, Tatischeff’s sleight of hand entrances girlish housemaid Alice. They don’t share a language but bond with a mutual delicacy of feeling, and when he leaves for Edinburgh, Alice goes too.


With Tatischeff eking a living on the faded showbiz periphery, money is perilously short. He runs himself ragged to stay afloat and keep Alice, whom he chastely adores, in pretty clothes but to no avail: in his frequent absences, she has found someone else. Although whimsically stylised, the striving and pain of the intimately realised characters — a suicidal clown and a lonely ventriloquist are fellow guests in Tatischeff and Alice’s shabby hotel — are both acutely human and poetry in distinctive motion.