No, not that “Illusionist” with Edward Norton and Jessica Biel from 2006. This “lllusionist” is an animated film that is up for Best Animated Feature against “Toy Story 3” and “How to Train Your Dragon”.
What makes “The Illusionist” different from the two movies in the same category is that it is hand drawn animation, french and for the most part a silent film except for the piano music and certain sounds from the characters such as bonjour! or a grunt. This film however has something special to it, the story of a dying artistic movement.
This movie has gotten very little discussion and people wondered how it got into the animation nomination pool? I have an answer as said above, this movie has heart. It involves the struggling magician who makes his way through Europe trying very hard to book a show. The problem is the world of art is changing as this film shows. It’s almost the sixties and televisions and radios and boy bands have started to emerge. No one wants to see a magician perform the old trick off pulling a bunny out of a hat…..except for one young woman.
The young woman, Alice begins to worship the old magician when he stops in her rural village and believes magic is something wonderful. She follows him and believes in magic as he gives her new shoes and then a new dress. It makes them both happy and content to both believe in magic, but after some time, the old magician can not afford to keep entertaining with lavish gifts. While she believes he is magically pulling these beautiful things out of thin air, the magician is working two jobs to surprise the young woman to make her believe in magic.
It was beautiful to see classic hand drawn animation after we have seen 3-D animation for so long. Don’t get me wrong I love “Toy Story” , “Monsters Inc.”, etc.. but this movie would have not been the same if it was in 3-D.
It’s actually kinda ironic that I went to see this film as I am studying the art of Vaudeville in one of my class because this film had the theme of vaudeville artists dying out over time.
I really suggest going to see this if it’s playing anywhere near you. Very few people were in my theater and a couple people left because they didn’t realize it was “a cartoon” … It was very far from being a cartoon with slapstick humor. It was a story with beautiful characters trying to adjust to a changing world. It’s just like any other movie except it’s animated.
*SPOILERS AT THIS POINT DO NOT READ IF YOU DON’T WANT TO BE SPOILED*
This film is very sweet, but also very sad. It shows the hard life of artists and how many of them succumb to alcoholism. Besides the magician we see an alcoholic clown about to kill himself and a ventriloquists who must sell his dummy and in the end, becomes homeless. The film shows the drastic change Europe had on the entertainment industry.
For an animation film, it made me cry at the very end when we see that the magician has realized he can no longer be an magician. He lets his bunny go into a field of bunnies (at this point I was sobbing) and leaves a note for the young girl that says “Magicians Do Not Exist”. On a train ride home, the magician meets another small child and her mother. The small child loses her pencil and he thinks about surprising her with a better one, but decides against it. His life of a magician as an illusionist is over.
Best Animated Feature
* The director Sylvain Chomet also got a nominations for his animated film “Triplets of Belleville” in 2003.