4.0, Europe

The Illusionist

#3: The Illusionist by Sylvain Chomet. In the ten days leading up to the 83rd Annual Academy Awards, I listed my ten favorite films of 2010, each accompanied by a custom Criterion Collection cover inspired by Sam Smith’s Top 10 of 2010 Poster Project.

2010 / Sylvain Chomet > Charming. Heartbreaking. Wonderful. Chomet’s follow-up to the brilliant The Triplets of Belleville isn’t nearly as clever, but its story of lament and regret is equally as powerful. Originally written by iconic French filmmaker Jacques Tati in an attempt to reconciliate with an estranged daughter, L’illusionniste captures the kind of magic that cinema was always intended for. With almost no dialogue, Chomet is able to tug at our heartstrings with gorgeous, hand-drawn animation that transports us to a very different time and place. This isn’t earth-shattering stuff, but there’s something delightful in accompanying our magician in his twilight as he inadvertently becomes the guardian of a naive, young girl. His little tricks make us smile, but his inability to connect with the girl at a deeper level instills in us a tragic sense of eventuality. By not being explicit about their motivations, Chomet allows us approach the film how we choose. At a sparse 80 minutes, every scene is essential and none are heavy-hearted. Its beauty is in its simplicity, and it may be best watched on an overcast day as rain trickles down.