Another similarity comes in the form of a silent protagonist, which had served Chomet’s preceding endeavour so well. This time the character is Paul (Guillaume Gouix), a piano virtuoso, who has never once spoken a word following the untimely, mysterious death of his parents when he was just a toddler. Now, living with his two eccentric aunts, he becomes spiritually entwined with his next door neighbour Madame Proust (Anne Le Ny), who, with a combinations of herbs, spices and hallucinogenics, takes Paul back to his childhood, as he attempts to find some clarity in his troubled upbringing.
Attila Marcel is an extremely ethereal piece, as Chomet explores the senses, as we watch on as a mute and a blind man take magic mushrooms, heightening their other senses to make up for those that are lacking, as they get in touch with their inner selves. There’s something almost spellbinding in this, as a film that feels somewhat magical, as a poignant, relatively profound narrative dressed up in quite effervescent surroundings. While comparisons to the likes of Jacques Tati, or even Buster Keaton will be rife, you can almost find similarities to the likes of Cinderella – the aunties representative of the ugly sisters, and Madame Proust of the Fairy Godmother.
Rich in whimsicality – at times, a little overbearingly so – there is still a charm to this piece, and it’s grounded effectively by its moving narrative. Chomet is able blend the fantastical with the naturalistic, which is no easy task – as we saw Michel Gondry disappoint in that very area with his recent project Mood Indigo. The pathos to this feature comes predominantly in the physical performance of Gouix, who is so reliant on his facial expressions to provoke emotion given his complete lack of dialogue. Yet he comes into his element, with such sorrowful eyes that allows the viewer a real insight into his painful past.
Meanwhile, Paul’s piano playing is not only imperative to the structure of this story, but to the mood and atmosphere, as his gentle melodies enhance the genial ambiance at hand. However, and in spite of the warmth of this title, it can be somewhat contrived in its attempt to be whimsical and offbeat and is off-putting as a result. Attila Marcel marks a more than worthy turn for this talented filmmaker, but it would certainly not be the end of the world if for Chomet’s next project, he returned back to his usual stomping ground with another animation.