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DVD Review: The Illusionist

May 10, 2011

The Illusionist – A Sony Pictures’ Release

DVD Release Date: May 10th, 2011

Rated PG for thematic elements and smoking

Running time: 80 minutes

Sylvain Chomet (dir.)

Jacques Tati (original screenplay)

Sylvain Chomet (adaptation)

Sylvain Chomet (music)

Jean-Claude Donda as The Illusionist (voice)

Eilidh Rankin as Alice (voice)

Our reviews below:


The Illusionist DVD Review By John C.

***1/2 (out of 4)

Based on an unproduced screenplay by the late Jacques Tati, Sylvain Chomet’s The Illusionist tells the story of an aging magician (Jean-Claude Donda) and his fatherly love for a teenage girl named Alice (Eilidh Rankin).  We quietly watch as the magician changes Alice in small but significant ways, buying her new clothes and encouraging her to meet new people.  She still believes in magic, and in many ways this is his last trick.

With beautiful animation, a lovely musical score and a moving story that slowly washes over us, The Illusionist strikes the perfect balance of humour and heartache.  The lives of these characters are poignant and touching, but never cloying or obvious.  At just 80-minutes, this is a warm, perceptive and sometimes very funny little film for older audiences, that manages to charm and move us in equal measure.  Jacques Tati would be proud.

The Blu-ray includes ‘making-of’ featurette and a look at the progression of the animation, as well as a DVD of the film.


The Illusionist DVD Review by Erin V.  

**** (out of 4)

Quietly reminding us why silent cinema worked so well, The Illusionist is the story of two people who meet at a crossroads in their respective lives.  Taticheff, a struggling magician in a time where cinema and faster-paced entertainment is taking over, meets Alice, a young woman working as a cleaner in a small Scottish town.  When she follows him back to Edinburgh, a quiet friendship develops as he helps her to find her way on her own in the world.

The animation here is beautiful, like a watercolour in its tones and feel.  The music keeps us watching the story in lieu of dialogue, and although it won’t be engaging for young children, older animation/film fans can revel in a simple story told well.  It is easy to admire this one.


The Illusionist DVD Review By Nicole

***1/2 (out of 4)

The Illlusionist is a sweet and touching film about friendship.  It’s 1959, and times are beginning to change.  People are no longer into Monsieur Taticheff’s (Jean-Claude Donda) magic shows, preferring to attend rock concerts.  However, on a tour in Scotland, Taticheff befriends Alice (Eilidh Rankin), a kindly teenager who is just starting to discover her life.  As their friendship grows, so does Alice, which leads to a poignant conclusion.

This is a beautifully animated film.  The details are incredible, with rain and puddles that almost look real.  The quiet, pensive score by director Sylvain Chomet sets a low-key and slightly melancholic mood for the film.  With very little dialogue, The Illlusionist is a work of art that tells a story well with its visuals and music.  This is one film you will definitely want to see.


The Illusionist DVD Review By Maureen

***1/2 (out of 4)

The Illusionist is a beautifully animated and touching tale with the classic feel of an old silent movie.  Director and musical composer Sylvain Chomet has brought to life a screenplay penned by France’s Jacques Tati over forty years ago.

Set in 1959 Paris, the story follows an old magician, Monsieur Taticheff (Jean-Claude Donda) whose simple tricks including the classic rabbit out of the hat, no longer impress French audiences.  When he takes a gig in rural Scotland he finds a more receptive crowd and makes a particular impression on a young barmaid named Alice (Eilidh Rankin).  She follows him to his next gig in England, and the pair develop a touching father/daughter bond that ultimately allows Alice to grow up and Taticheff to accept the decline of his career and move on.

The charm and beauty of The Illusionist is how the story gently unfolds with minimal dialogue.  The beautifully detailed, softly textured animation and the melancholic music do all the work of moving the story forward.  This is a gorgeous movie that, while a little slow-moving at times, is a wonderful change of pace.  The Illusionist deserved its 2010 Best Animated Feature Oscar nomination, as this is one film that only gets better with subsequent viewings.  The DVD includes a making of featurette, perfect for fans of quality animation.


The Illusionist DVD Review By Tony

***1/2 (out of 4)

The Illusionist is an animated adaptation by director Silvain Chomet of an unproduced screenplay of Jacques Tati that would have featured Tati as the main character Taticheff (Tati’s birth name). As an aging magician in the late 1950s working music halls with his reluctant rabbit, Taticheff is forced into smaller and smaller gigs in bars, small towns and private parties, as public tastes change from vaudeville novelty acts to rock and roll. Alice, a Scottish village chambermaid, follows him to a hotel in Edinburgh where she shares his suite and cooks for him and other vaudeville performers until she can find herself.

For those of us unfamiliar with Tati’s work, he was a great comedic character actor comparable to Chaplin and emulated by characters like Mr. Bean and the Korean Younggu. His style is typified by (one camera) long shots of physical comedy moving at a leisurely pace with minimal dialogue (limited in this case to mumbled bits of French, English, and possibly Gaelic), accompanied by a beautifully evocative musical score. The retro animation style features beautiful renderings, particularly of the scenes in and around Chomet’s adopted city of Edinburgh.


Consensus: With beautifully detailed animation and a touching story that allows for affecting moments of both poignancy and humour, Sylvain Chomet’s The Illusionist is a magical work of art.  ***1/2 (Out of 4)

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