French animator Sylvain Chomet is a throwback to a period when animation was hand-drawn and still seemed magical. There’s a warmth to his movies, but also a whimsy and compared with modern CG animation, it seems positively delightful. Especially just to know that there is someone out there who still believes on the old school.
His latest flick is The Illusionist. Here’s the plot:
The Illusionist is one of a dying breed of stage entertainers. With emerging rock stars stealing his thunder, he is forced to accept increasingly obscure assignments in fringe theatres, at garden parties and in bars and cafés. However, whilst performing in a village pub off the west coast of Scotland, he encounters Alice, an innocent young girl, who will change his life forever.
Watching his performance to the excited villagers who are celebrating the arrival of electricity to their remote island, Alice becomes awestruck by our hero and believes his tricks are real magic. Following him to Edinburgh, she keeps his home while he goes to work in a small local theatre. Enchanted by her enthusiasm for his act, he rewards her with increasingly lavish gifts he has ‘conjured’ into existence. Desperate not to disappoint her, he cannot bring himself to reveal that magic does not exist and that buying these gifts is driving him to ruin.
That’s some heavy shit for an animated movie, ya know? But it’s also incredibly real and applicable to actual relationships.