Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Illusionist (The French One)

Hey guys, feeling kind of crappy lately, sleepwise. I know, what else is new? It's just kind of a bummer because even when I do sleep, it's all restless with weird and intense dreams and I just wake up tired. Anyone ever been through something similar? How do you deal? I'm about ready to give most anything I try, this shit's getting old and really starting to mess with my state of mind.

Anyway, not too long ago during guest week, me and the boydude went out and saw The Illusionist so I can at least say I saw everything in one of the Oscar categories (That would be animation for the fellow insomniacs who are not with it this evening).

How do you say Oscar-bait in French?

So, a script from the great, departed Jacques Tati in a movie by Sylvain Chomet, who brought us The Triplets of Belville. Well, this pretty much has to be good. And it is. Duh.

One could even say it's...magical?

*sound of the Cynic being beaten for not learning her lesson about puns*

Ahem, anyway, the movie follows our Illusionist, an old man sliding into elderly. He is a skilled magician and stage performer, but it's somewhere in the neighborhood of the late fifties and no one really gives a flying crap about stage magic anymore, at least not when there are gyrating British rockers to be had.

You try and compete with this

So the Illusionist and his psychotic white rabbit are forced into cruddier and cruddier venues until he ends up in a remote Scottish village, performing for the locals and accidentally entrancing a young inn-keeper girl named Alice.

Oh Alice, I have so many bones to pick with your character

Ok, so I was informed beforehand about the issues with Alice in the other reviews of the film that I read before seeing it. She's kind of shallow and really dumb. Her whole deal is that she's supposed to be this naive little highland girl and when the Illusionist makes the mistake of taking pity on her and buying her new shoes, she assumes he magicked them out of thin air. She is all like :O and runs away from home to travel with him, expecting him to make all her dreams come true via supreme magical powers. Maybe I'm just cynical (ok, more than maybe) but seriously, who's that ignorant of the laws of reality? Maybe if she was like, eight. Maybe. But she's at least a teenager-ish. She looks around twelve at first but once she starts sucking the old man dry for dresses and heels, she begins to look much older, which I'm sure is a metaphor but it just makes her belief that his magic is real that much less believable. And if she doesn't believe he's really magical? Then Alice is playing him and kind of a bitch.

Ok, let me back up here. This is a good movie. Really, it's just Alice that bugs me. I'll talk about the good things now: this movie is gorgeous. Just incredible. It's like a watercolor painting come to life. You could spend the whole movie looking at the backgrounds and the setting.

Look at this thing. This is a beautiful thing. LOOK AT IT.

So the Illusionist and Alice live happy-ishly in a boarding house full of performers, like creepy puppeteers, tumbling triplets and an extremely depressed clown. The Illusionist continues to get less work but still tries to keep Alice's innocence sheltered by getting her shiny things. He has to get an extra job, with hilarious results. The plot is sort of episodic in a nature, which does make it drag a bit around the middle, despite the short running time. Also because there is practically no dialogue, which is impressive in the emotion and characterization they are able to get across without it, but it really does seem make long scenes that much longer.

That is a crazy, carnivorous rabbit. For the love of God, say SOMETHING!

Anyway, it all leads up to a final bunch of scenes where Alice and the Illusionist both must come to terms with the real world and where their lives have taken them. As it's been said multiple times, this is where the film shines brightest. The animation is breathtaking, the music poignantly pretty and the ending itself heartbreaking. Even with Alice being Alice. This is a fantastic little film, clever and sweet, and man if there isn't some stiff competition in the animated category this year. Pixar will most likely win as it always does. But damn, this movie deserves it too. The Illusionist pulls four and a half catapults out of five out of his hat.


This is Sugary Cynic, asking "is this your card? No? It's a fish? ...Wrong pocket" 'Night!

Roger Ebert on the film: "Chomet has drawn it with a lightness and beauty worthy of an older, sadder Miyazaki story. Animation suits it. Live action would overwhelm its delicate fancy with realism"

Oh yeah, that's why I like Ebert. I forget sometimes.


  1. Welcome to CleverEuphemism's Craptastic Comment Corner (or CCCC for short. That's four Cs, one more than three, and 89 less than 93.)

    Dear Sugary Cynic, why must you pick on Alice? She is a 12-16 year old girl(probably splitting the difference in the 14/15 year old range), who does not have the life experience to equip her to deal with the things that are thrown at her. She is not some naive little twerp just dillydallying through her days. We see that she works relentlessly, and for little in return. I mean, I assume she would get herself shoes that weren't falling apart if she did earn much of anything. Aside from that, it is unclear if she has any family, or what her back story is. Generally such characters in her position are portrayed as orphans, and have no agency over their plight and situation, but that is not true of Alice.

    She gets a glimpse of a better life, and a hint of a way out and takes it. It takes major balls for a girl her age to be like "fuck this shit, I'm getting on a boat with the magical 10 foot tall dude that is going somewhere where I don't know a damn thing about!" Naive? Perhaps. Hopeful? Definitely. But can you blame her? Do you think her existence would be better if she stayed behind? Or better yet, would that have empowered her any more than leaving?

    (Insert picture of Rosie the Riveter making me a sammich)

    Now, she doesn't become all that interested in possessions until she gets to major metropolitan awesomeness and is inundated with store fronts, and ads, and upscale people walking around looking all upscale like. She was quite content with getting new shoes, which she didn't ask for. The Illusionist feeds into this by never telling her the truth about things. All she has to go on is the stuff of fairytales and aggressive, newly bourgeois capitalist marketing. She has no defense against it, and doesn't realize the truth behind it all. She can't figure out the difference between magic and reality and she is s'pose to realize how capitalism is shaping her fragile adolescent mind? No this is where The Illusionist and society at large are letting her down by not telling her the truth.

    (Enter picture of The Illusionist wearing a pink suit pandering bras)

    And it is not like she mooches. She tries to do the right thing by cooking and other house work, because it is all that she knows how to do. She only stops when The Illusionist stops being around or noticing or enjoying what she does for him, and thus her mind and attentions wander. Maybe if he was an adult towards her in the non-Lolita kind of way....

    (Pedobear goes here)

    In the end, don't hate on Alice, she does what she can and what she knows how to do.

  2. I can't wait to see this.... But I shall wait till it hits iTunes the graphics look beautiful.


  3. I'm going to go see this movie at the theater on Mon. :) Now I really CAN'T wait to see this!

  4. Have you ever gone mini-paralyzed at night, like, your awake, but your body won't move? And then you're afraid to go back to sleep, so you've got to stay up all night watching Korean horror movies and reminding yourself that is could be worse?


    I am forever in defense of the girl. She is quite obviously a flaming dingbat, and we must be sensitive to her disability.

  5. CleverEuphamism: What a detailed and well-supported argument, clearly someone has too much time on their hands and can sleep on the common room couch :p


    Lindsay: Awesome! Lemmee know what you think of it!

    Simon: get me.


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