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Friday, March 28, 2014

THE ILLUSIONIST (2010)

Sylvain Chomet’s much-delayed follow up to THE TRIPLETS OF BELLEVILLE/’03 is an odd duck, even for an uncategorizable animated film aimed at grown ups. Taken from a never-produced 40-yr-old script by Jacques Tati, France’s wry, anti-modernistic comic filmmaker, it’s a gloss on Chaplin’s LIMELIGHT/’52 (happily without the speechifying since Tati hardly speaks at all), that follows the declining career of a traveling Music Hall magician and the sweet-but-selfish young naïf who briefly latches on to him for affection and to escape her dead-end job. Moving from France to London, and then up thru Scotland, the film is a treat just to look at, with a few dazzling vistas opening up the largely intimate, slightly frustrating storyline. But it’s hard to mind the film’s limits, which honor Tati’s spirit & longueurs, as does the leading character, a kindly animated version of the great man that includes his practiced hesitations and heavy-treaded lurch thru portals of every manner. The film is a connoisseur’s piece, and a charmer.

DOUBLE-BILL: Just as Chaplin’s LIMELIGHT gains from knowing his earlier work, this film gets a leg up with a dose of Tati: 101. Chomet covertly suggests MON ONCLE/’58 with a glimpse of it in a movie theater. Good choice. Use it as prep.

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