Victoria Jelinek

L’Illusionniste (The Illusionist)

The Illusionist is eking out a living during the dying days of the music halls. Travelling to the Scottish islands for one of his performances, he meets a girl called Alice who’s convinced he’s a real magician and follows him to Edinburgh. The Illusionist is reluctant to disappoint her, but as she begs for gifts that she’s convinced he can magically provide, he has to come to terms with the fact that he has little money coming in and no means of keeping her illusions alive.

Directed by Sylvain Chomet (Belleville Rendez Vous), this is an animated, near wordless, tale for adults. The story was written decades ago by the great French comedian Jacques Tati, who found absurdity and pathos in the minutiae of everyday life. Apparently, however, Tati found this script too personal and shelved it during his lifetime, but Chomet has taken it and revived it as homage to Tati, to cinema, and to Edinburgh.

This is a bittersweet, poignant film about loss, grief and shattered illusions. However, like life, it’s also humorous and beautiful.