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New Zealand International Film Festival

July to November NZ wide | TVNZ

The Illusionist: Film Festival

The Illusionist

UK/France 2009, 90m
Director: Sylvian Chomet
Festivals: Berlin, Edinburgh 2010

"An aging French magician who is a dead ringer for Jacques Tati uses sleight-of-hand to give a clueless Scottish girl a poetic assist toward adulthood in The Illusionist. Five years in the making, master animator Sylvain Chomet's follow-up to The Triplets of Belleville deploys superb hand-drawn imagery to bring to life an unproduced screenplay the late Tati finished in 1959& Set in Paris, London and Edinburgh in the late 1950s as the last vestiges of variety entertainment gave way to youth-oriented rock 'n' roll, The Illusionist is a delightfully bittersweet valentine to the music hall tradition.

Aiming for the heart as well as the funny bone, Chomet proves himself the perfect creative choice to resuscitate Tati's long-dormant script& Working solo, except for an ornery rabbit whose pit bull-like personality is a consistently incongruous source of surprise and amusement, the magician sees his engagements dwindle to nearly none& Man, rabbit and suitcase travel to wherever the work takes them.

On a far flung Scottish isle whose residents are celebrating the long overdue arrival of electricity, local lass Alice believes the magician to be truly magical. Since he can make coins and other objects appear out of thin air, she naively concludes that his conjuring tricks are real. From this misunderstanding springs an unasked-for father-daughter relationship when Alice follows the magician back to the mainland. The magician takes on extra work to which he is ill-suited in order to make the money to satisfy his penniless charge's culinary and sartorial whims& The deceptively simple story is anchored in nostalgia for bygone traditions. And yet the theme of dedicated craftsmen (a clown, a ventriloquist, a magician) made obsolete by changing tastes (not to mention age making way for youth) remains relevant." - Lisa Nesselson, Screendaily