Anyone that knows me, knows I’m a huge Jacques Tati fan. There’s something about his filmmaking that evokes a sense of wonderment inside of me as an adult. No, I’m not talking about childhood nostalgia, I’m speaking more of the ability to gasp in awe and think to myself, ‘I didn’t think we could do stuff like that’. His timing, his curiocity and his ambitious visions should not be taken lightly or even for granted. I feel in the days of Michael Bay and Zack Snyder, film geeks and average moviegoers don’t seem to have a place or reverence for such an exquisite and exacting filmmaker and artist like Jacques Tati. But sadly, Jacques Tati has been dead since 1982 so any hope of a new film from this master of cinema were all but gone until animator Sylvain Chomet (Triplets of Belleville) unearthed a script from Tati and adapted that in his new film, The Illusionist.
The Illusionist is the story of a traveling magician going from town to town to perform his charming act to extremely small audiences. The title role of the illusionist has no name but one can easily be seen as an inspired by Jacques Tati’s iconic character, Monsieur Hulot, complete with his mannerisms, poise and demeanor. But when the illusionist meets a little girl named Alice, their lives are forever changed by each other’s company. Being somewhat this girl’s surrogate father is a touching and loving gesture. At times, Alice takes the illusionist love for granted as many people do as he is a truly dying breed of showman.
Going from town to town and performing comes with the cost of rejection and no pay so the illusionist has to do odd jobs around town to make ends meet. One of which involves a gag of the illusionist working as a parking attendant. One thing that I really find interesting about Tati’s work is his constant comment on technology and people transitioning from an old way of life to a new one. As one of the better gags that involve the illusionist waiting to go on stage to perform is act but is continuously stalled by the rock n’ roll band performing for numerous screaming teenyboppers.
So much of this film is so heartfelt with a poignancy that will absolutely have you in tears. When Chomet and Tati being the illusionist to a point in his life where has to decide to keep going or not. This speaks volumes to the changing landscape of craftsmen and artisans whose trade is slowing dying off. This is a remarkable film that will have you laughing, crying and thinking about your place in this world. Not bad for a film completely void of words but rather told with just glances and facial expressions. The Illusionist is truly magical!