The Illusionist is the new film by Sylvain Chomet, who previously directed Les Triplettes de Belleville. It is based on a screenplay by Jacques Tati and features Tati as an elderly illusionist who faces an audience no longer interested in his old-fashioned tricks. When he arrives in a remote Scottish village a young girl who works in the hotel he stays in is convinced his magic is real. He cannot find it in his heart to shatter her illusion.
It is a delight to watch an old-fashioned mostly hand-drawn feature length animated movie. The film is set in the late 1950s. The look and feel is nostalgic and melancholic. The soundtrack adds to the sense of loss and nostalgia. There is very little dialogue, but who needs dialogue when the visuals are as rich as in The Illusionist?
The final scene is very subtle and, well, magical. When he is on the train back to London the illusionist shares a compartment with a mother and her young son. When the child drops his pencil, which is already quite short from having been pointed several times, the illusionist hides his own, long pencil inside his sleeve and bends forward to hand it to the boy. But then he changes his mind and hands back the boy's own pencil. There are many ways to read this scene and as I think about it the number of interpretations keeps multiplying. It speaks of the wisdom of old-age and the relationship between art and life. I admit that it made me cry. I'm still moved when I think back.
Another extract from the movie.