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.

The Triplets of Belleville

During the Tour de France, expert cyclist Champion is kidnapped by the Mafia and taken to the megalopolis of Belleville. Champion’s doting grandma, Mme. Souza, mounts a daring rescue mission aided by three ageing music hall stars and a geriatric dog. A Portuguese ‘old dear’ with a clubfoot, Mme. Souza is an unlikely cartoon heroine, but her relentless, resourceful spirit and her unyielding desire to protect her grandson is completely compelling.

From the opening musical number, French Animator Sylvain Chomet throws in amazing set pieces and creates an original and enchanting world, with great supporting characters (hulking mobsters, sad-faced cyclists), and subtle cultural commentary (Belleville is a thinly-disguised USA).

Les Triplettes de Belleville is not a new release, but it is an absolute must see. This is Chomet’s first full-length feature and it’s a wonderful adventure tale with a hymn for times lost. Chomet’s film maintains an emotionally resonant core as it mixes sadness with satire and complexity with nostalgia. Humorous and moving, this is an absolutely unique film that is arguably pure genius.