L’ Illusionniste

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Is there reconciliation in the story?

We live in an era where Pixar rules the animated box office. In many ways, rightly so. However, Pixar’s look, style, and integrated stories have left American culture with a (not-so) new standard, or expectation, in animation. L’ Illusionniste, an British-French film based on a 1956 unproduced script from French mime Jacques Tati, is an appropriate alternative to the Pixar formula.

As we continue to explore the nature of wonder through art and film (on this site and rednow.com), we continue to recognize the deep connection between art and personal expression. L’Illusionniste is a prime example. This story is so contrary to the new norm, it hints towards a familiar reality. What at first might appear to be a plot surrounding a bizarre romance and a dying profession, turns out to be a story of relational complexity — rooted in hopes, needs, and misconceptions.

To enhance the tension (and wonder) of the film, director Sylvain Chomet tells the story with very little dialogue. We feel the complexity versus understand them. There’s humor. There’s brokennes. Much like life. In fact, much like Jacques Tati’s own life. While there is some debate surrounding the script’s inspiration, it’s widely believed to be a love letter from Tati to his estranged eldest daughter.

This is the beauty of (great) art. It’s based in experience. We believe it because it’s true. We connect with it because it’s familiar.