Last week I caught the last move of the 2010 season—a film up for an Oscar for Best Animated Film confusingly called, The Illusionist. While commenting about it to others they, of course, think I’m talking about the Edward Norton film from a few years ago.
This one is a foreign film about an elderly small-time magician. Only he would call himself an illusionist as the reality falls far short of the majesty of such a lofty title. The film follows the main character through his various small-venue engagements that he knows will never last more than a few performances but that he’s long ago resigned himself and adjusted his life to.
It’s at one of the most out-of-the-way performances that he catches the attention of a young, naive common girl who doesn’t seem to understand that it’s all a series of tricks. She’s drawn to the magician in a totally platonic manner that’s all about simple wonder and nothing else. The magician decides, upon realizing she’s decided to tag along with him, to take her under his wing.
The film is quite original and also amazingly beautiful and reminiscent of an early and more pure age of animation. This has the look and feel of the earlier Disney films. Many traditional viewers will find it a bit of a reach as, among other things, there’s barely a word spoken during the entire film. It opens with a few words of English and he clearly speaks French here and there but the girl speaks some sort of entirely imaginary language that no one could identify—and then only rarely.
The movie isn’t really about anything other than a slice-of-life period of both main characters lives and how they came together for a brief period. It’s in this that I personally found it a bit lacking. It didn’t help that it took a rather elongated time to tell this story and then add to it all the silence.
In the end it’s still a rather solid film that will please many but, I’m sure, will put many others to sleep. There is much about this film that is clearly a matter of being able to appreciate art when you see it. I’m aware of it here but apparently I’m just not refined enough to enjoy it simply for the sake of it.