The story is set in 1959, following the journey of a lone magician who seems to be losing his magic touch and attraction as audiences are more interested in the new rock n’ roll bands which seem to outshine him everywhere he goes.
When he gets to Scotland, he befriends a young Scottish woman working at the pub he is staying at, their friendship grows when she decides to go with him to Edinburgh and while she is introduced to the latest fashion style for women, he does his best to show people his skills as a magician.
They encounter other characters while they are staying at a small hotel, all of whom are struggling with their old-fashioned acts as well and the film takes us through the ups and downs of the magician and the young Scottish woman’s friendship and their idealisms of the latest trends and unpopular arts.
Having the same director and similar artistic style and character designs as seen in Les triplettes de Belleville, this film has a similar way of telling the narrative through visual actions and yet it has its own identity, its own feel and mood.
The animation team has included the use of computer effects in the film as well as hand-drawn animation, and though some people may be put off by this straight away, the two animation techniques go really well together and the computer effects are used for the background while the characters are travelling in a vehicle or when we see swooping shots of Edinburgh.
However, for those who may not have seen a film by Chomet before, they might find his reliance on the visual, narrative style to be a bit lacking and I can understand that since his stories doesn’t quite get to the point as quickly as other animated films.
I found this to be Chomet’s best film yet. The art and character designs match really well with the year in which it’s based, and the characters are very interesting to watch. The smooth flow of the animation process is beautiful, and amazing to see move on-screen. Coupled with the use of computer effects and the painted backgrounds, it only improves on this already gorgeous animated film.
Animated films released this year so far, including The Princess and the Frog from Disney and Miyazaki’s latest, Ponyo, have shown audiences that hand-drawn animation can remain strong, and The Illusionist easily manages to be as good or better than those two examples and is a fantastic start to the Edinburgh Film Festival.
If you love Chomet’s previous films, this is truly a must see film!