Wednesday, April 14, 2010


All the way from France and movie heaven, here's the next entry in the We Can't Wait series...

The Illusionist
Directed by: Sylvain Chomet (based on an unfinished screenplay by Jacques Tati)
Synopsis: Details the story of a dying breed of stage entertainer whose thunder is being stolen by emerging rock stars. Forced to accept increasingly obscure assignments in fringe theaters, garden parties and bars, he meets a young fan who changes his life forever.
Brought to you by: Django Films
Expected release date: premiered at the Berlin Film Festival, US release TBA.

Jose: A lot has been made recently about the power of films as means of rebirth; Sylvain Chomet takes this to the extreme and quite literally brings Jacques Tati back from the dead to star in the one film he never got to make. Based on a screenplay the French master wrote, the story follows magician Tatischeff (a character based on Tati himself in the way Mr. Hulot was) as he copes with changing times. I'm torn: is this sacrilegious or completely inspired? As much as I love classic film stars brought back to life and in most cases introduced to younger generations, there is always an element that could go bad and said movie star isn't even here to defend his position anymore.

Nathaniel: I'm never sure about artists riffing on or conjoined with or forcefully grafted to other artists. It's nerve wracking to me as to whether any of those creative chemicals should be paired. Though obviously sometimes it's thrilling (Far From Heaven!) But if anyone can revive Tati, why not a spiritual descendant in dialogue free syncopated visual gags?

Dave: I must confess I've never seen a Tati film (don't hurt me), but this film appeared on my list thanks to the name of Sylvain Chomet alone - The Triplets of Belleville might just be my favourite animated feature of the last ten years, and we live in a Pixar world! The style of animation was so inscrutable, and the lack of dialogue probably puts the majority of people off, but you'd think something like that would be cold and emotionless whereas it was completely the opposite. But then maybe I'm just weird.

Putting dead people back on-screen is a risky proposition, but this isn't Laurence Olivier and we're not in the World of Tomorrow - I've immense faith that Chomet chose to do this with of deep admiration and respect for Tati. Perhaps the young fan in the film reflects Chomet himself? Not that I believe Chomet will be without the smarts to be blindly adoring of his subject - Belleville showed a knack for ironic self-awareness and a macabre playfulness that you just don't get in another animated films.

- Russian trailer for the film -

Jose: Of course! When I remember The Triplets of Belleville I think perhaps Chomet's idiosyncratic (and very French) take on animation will be wonderful paired with Tati's genius for gags. Can you imagine how hard it must've been to animate something like Playtime?

Nathaniel: Strangely given their copyright dates I've seen Playtime far more recently than Belleville so I can't remember if Belleville's visual idiosyncracies are worthy of Tati's brilliance. Playtime is just... gah! But I love ambitious animation.

Dave: Oh, and I do hope we get a song or two. 'Belleville Rendez-Vous' still gets regular play from me. The things you can do with kitchen appliances...

Jose: Well people... is The Illusionist music to your ears or the sound of disaster?

"We Can't Wait: Summer and Beyond"
The "orphan" picks Nathaniel (Burlesque), JA (Love and Other Drugs), Jose (You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger), Craig (What's Wrong With Virginia?), Robert (True Grit) and Dave (Brighton Rock); Team Film Experience Countdown #12 It's Kind of a Funny Story, #11 Sex & the City 2, #10 Scott Pilgrim vs the World, #9 Somewhere, #8 The Kids Are All Right, #7 The Illusionist, #6 Toy Story 3, #5 Inception, #4 Rabbit Hole, #3 Never Let Me Go, #2 Black SwanThe Tree of Life.
and #1


Mickche said...

i was just wondering if the screenplay by Tati by unfinished or just not published/produced.

Cant wait for this though

Guy Lodge said...

You're right to anticipate this one so eagerly -- it's glorious, and quite possibly the most beautiful object we'll see on screens all year.

I do, however, need to correct Jose on one important point: while the eponymous magician is plainly a M. Hulot-inspired figure in many respects, he is not actually Hulot. In fact, he's modelled more directly on Tati himself (not that Hulot wasn't, to an extent) -- to the point that the character has the director's birth name of Tatischeff.

Janice said...

Having seen both Mon Oncle & Triplets, I think that Chomet is probably the ONLY person who could possibly pull this off. Tati's sensibilities are in safe hands here.

However, as much as I loved the presence and physicality of Tati himself, I'm sure I'll be happier with this if I don't go in looking for a "Tati substitute/Tati returned from the dead" and just appreciate it for what it is.

Now if you told me Pixar was taking this on, then I'd be worried...

Anonymous said...

Chomet is no spiritual successor to Tati. Tati was an incredible elegant observer of life who had learnt his craft on stage in the music halls and knew first had how to make an audience respond with great hilarity. Chomet work to date has been quite ugly both in humour and style, the two directors are very different. Tati loved life and lived in reality, Chomet on the other hand makes dreary fantasy.
Chomet has robbed the script from Tati’s grave whilst spitefully neglecting why the great director had originally wrote it as an apology to his eldest daughter.

OtherRobert said...

I'm crying because of the trailer and I could read zero of the plot details. The animation is, predictably, stunning and the emotion of the Illusionist is compelling.

I could care less what the original intent of the film concept was. I've learned to seperate myself from source material so as to not be disappointed by the outcome. I'm not going to knock someone down for producing a film that otherwise wouldn't be made just because the original conceiver never made it. A parallel: I didn't just write off Battle Royale II because the original BR director died as soon as the film started shooting. I gave it a fair chance as his son's film and evaluated it on its own terms. I can guess all I want to about how wonderful the sequel would have been had Kinji Fukasaku finished it, but then I'm grading something that exists by the standard of something that was never completed. It's a worthless effort with no winners.

In other words, we'll never have Tati's version of the film, so there's no use ragging on Chomet's just because it's not Tati's.

Deus Ex Machina said...

When I heard of this i got so excited (plus I know some people from work who have seen it in Berlin whose opinions I respect and who were very impressed), and it's because I always thought that Mr. Hulot had a cartoonish quality, as if he was immediately extracted off a comic strip. The plot is supposedly about Tati trying to reconnect with his estranged daughter (which was a real life occurrence for Tati)so it's possibly also a tearjerker.
I've been told that there's a scene in which Hulot goes to the movies and they're screening Mon Oncle. I loved when they mixed real film footage(Hello Dolly!) with animation in Wall-E, Utter Brilliance! and i so see it working in this.

Anonymous said...

If you remove the soul you are left with nothing but a shallow shell. Review's I've seen so far of the Illusionist say that the plot is very confused and makes little sense with no explanation as to why a middle aged man (the conjurer) would whisk away a teenage girl, very much still a child, from the safety her home.

Guy Lodge said...

It's cute how the people trying to badmouth the film don't have the spine to identify themselves.

Notas Sobre Creación Cultural e Imaginarios Sociales said...

Thanks for the correction about Hulot, Guy!
Can't wait to see it based on your ecstatic reaction.

Guy Lodge said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Guy Lodge said...

By the way, Dave, there are a couple of original songs, written by Malcolm Ross of Aztec Camera -- mainly in a period-specific rock 'n roll style for the band that crops in and out of the story (and can be seen in the trailer). They're neither as integral nor as catchy as that "Belleville" theme, but they're a cute detail.

Claire said...

Song's which Chomet is taking credit for writting. Whoever it is Victor Hugo, Nicolas De Crécy, Jacques Tati or Malcolm Ross Chomet freely plagiarises from others.

Guy said...

Chomet co-wrote the songs with Ross, and both are credited, just as Tati has a script credit, so I'm not sure what your issue is here.

Seems like a weird little movie to take such an impassioned stand against, but to each their own.

Karl K said...

Work with Chomet then try saying he isn’t bully and a crook. Ask anyone he sacked after having been caught on the wrong side of one of his mood swings. The man has some talent but also a massive opinion of himself. For a numerous reasons The Illusionist is 2 years late to screen and massively over budget. It exists because of the hard work of gifted individuals at Django and not Chonmet’s direction.