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Feature Film

Clips and Reviews of Sylvain Chomet’s The Illusionist


Sylvain Chomet’s The Illusionist easily tops my list for most anticipated animated feature of 2010 (sorry Tangled). The film premiered to raves last week at the Berlin International Film Festival, and the Pathé Distribution website lists a May 5, 2010 release date, which I believe is for France. Pathé is also handling UK distribution, though I haven’t run across a release date yet. ScreenDaily reported yesterday that the film has also secured distribution deals for Japan (Klockworx), Italy (Cinema 11), Greece (Nutopia), Benelux (Paradiso) and the Middle East (Phars Film) while “a US deal is expected to be announced shortly.”

The first clips from the film to appear online can be seen in this video interview with Sylvain Chomet. Here are three different reviews of the film from people who saw it in Berlin:

Screen Daily: “The imagery excels at depicting less-harried times: as a train chugs over a trestle bridge in the country, its reflection in the water below is as stunning as the changing light over Edinburgh. And somehow the animated rain seems more real than the wet stuff in live-action films. The deceptively simple story (which bears some scattered similarities to Chaplin’s Limelight) is anchored in nostalgia for bygone traditions. And yet the theme of dedicated craftsmen (a clown, a ventriloquist, a magician) made obsolete by changing tastes (not to mention age making way for youth) remains relevant.”

In Contention: “It took six days and an awful lot of films, but the Berlinale has finally turned up a masterpiece. Moreover, it’s a rare case of one of the fest’s most eagerly awaited titles managing to meet, and even subvert, expectations. The Illusionist . . . confirms a truly singular auteur sensibility, while revealing a more disciplined artist and storyteller within. A streamlined character study, less deliriously eccentric in tone and structure than his debut feature, The Illusionist nonetheless boasts an emotional heft that handsomely repays its creator’s restraint.

Variety: “The pic is a thrilling exercise in retro aesthetics, from the pencil-and-watercolor look to the 2D animation that harks back to mid-1960s Disney (especially “101 Dalmatians”) and the delicate lines and detailed backgrounds of Gallic animator Paul Grimault, to the details that perfectly evoke Scotland in the 1950s. All the same, the backgrounds here brim with little jokes that the long takes offer a chance to catch, such as the sight of lobster thermidor (with a fried egg on top and haggis) on offer at a fish-and-chips shop . . . Pace may seem a little slow for those reared on contempo animation, but for those immersed in the film, the rhythms are delicious.”

(Thanks to Martin Gornall, who worked on the film, for these links)

  • Satjit Matharu

    You can see all the artists’ hard work up there in every single frame of the film. A beautiful film. Everybody who worked on it should be proud of this film. I feel honoured to be a part of the exceptional crew at Django Films.

  • Any CB visitors should definitely brush up on Jacques Tati. Not only his character(s) but his use of sound. . . Mr. Hulot’s Holiday, Mon Oncle, Playtime, etc.. . . all great studies for film/animation enthusiasts !

  • Ben K.

    Simply beautiful. I can’t wait to see it.

  • I simply can’t wait for this film. So excited.

  • Bob Harper

    I can’t wait to see this one. This is what we need more of.

  • turbos

    Beautiful! I can’t wait to see it! I hope it gets a US release. It really looks very Milt Kahl esque and it seems to hearken back to an amazing age in animation. It has an art style you don’t see hardly at all anymore. One that I for one am eager to see again.

  • my heart breaks looking at how beautiful this film is, and how beautiful many other films could be. I can’t wait.

  • Chris

    Hope someone at Disney takes note, this is how you bring back 2-D. Compelling STORY and CHARACTER! Not recycling the same old formulas. You’ve made your safe bet, now it’s time to make something great!

    That being said, I couldn’t be more excited for another film. Chomet is a genius and it looks heartbreakingly beautiful!

  • this looks so good. i agree with chris on bringing back 2D. i hope disney gets this good again.

    this film truly looks magical. /pun

  • Chris B

    I can not wait to see it!! nice to keep seeing refreshing surprises like this. :)

  • First thanks to julien.

    This was on cartoon brew few days ago delivered by julien in answers for jerry’s article about few animated eu-trashs.

    also shown on lineboil and catsuka

  • Excellent film making.

    Plus, the film probably cost less than one executive bonus.

  • Joe McCabe

    At the risk of sounding like a deliberate contrarian, I wan’t much of a fan of ‘Triplets of Belleville’, which seemed too often to engage in weirdness for its own sake. (As opposed to, say, the weirdness of early Tim Burton or David Lynch, which created a mood, an entire world, and could often be quite funny). And this film looks to repeat one of my main problems with ‘Triplets’ — its inspirations. Mid-1960s Disney animation is pretty weak. The muted, muddy colors were miserable and the scratchy pencil look of the Xeroxed cels was annoying. Moreover, it broadcasted laziness all over the screen. I agree there needs to be more cel animation in theaters, and I honestly hope to love ‘The Illusionist’. But I’m skeptical.

  • w

    I’ve heard they worked for pints sold downstairs.

  • Mr. Norman – Haha, so very true. I hear Don Bluth is able to make the same feat. :) I really can’t imagine what I’d do if I had that much money… I’d probably end up giving most of it away, haha.

    I’ve been waiting for more news about this film since I heard about it this past September! and now that I get to see some actual animation, I’m craving even more. I hope this gorgeous foreign film will get a wider release than that of “The Secret of Kells” (if that was even considered a theatrical release). Those of us in the more central section of the United States would love to be able to see the film in the theater… It’s always so discouraging to hear about those NY/LA only releases.

  • S

    For “W”

    Atleast it wasn’t peanuts !!!

  • That image alone has sold me!

  • Saturnome

    Jacques Tati was the greatest silent film comedian of the sound era. And one of the greatest filmmaker ever.
    The clips reminds me of a Tati film. I’m sure this will be a great film.

  • Tedzey

    thats good that it’s getting a middle eastern distribution. Probably going to be popular in Lebanon because its french.

  • Lisa Hack

    OOOhh will Australia ever get to see it? I do hope so.

    It does look beautiful…and watching his motion, the animation really captures all Jacques Tati ‘s personality, and character. I really recommend people watch some of his films if they have not already. Mon Uncle is one of my favourites.

  • Paul D

    The film is beautiful and everybody who worked on it can be extremely proud. While there were several animation veterans on this picture, like my good friend Satjit, an awful lot of this beautiful work was done by a very young, talented and ambitious crew!

    The artists in all departments over-came some pretty serious hurdles to deliver a very beautiful film. I won’t mention names because I will inevitably leave somebody out… but if ever you meet someone who said that they worked on this picture chances are they went above and beyond what would be expected almost anywhere else. Give them a tip of the hat.

    As for pints, if ever you are in Edinburgh then look for a small out-of-the-way pub in the New Town called The Cumberland. Go outside to the terrace on an early evening and have a pint. This was the pressure valve of the whole operation!

  • Pedro Nakama

    Is it just me or is anyone else getting a 101 Dalmatians feel from this picture?

  • As a fan both of Jacques Tati’s films (especially “Mon Oncle” and “Playtime”) and Sylvain’s Chomet’s previous work, I am very much looking forward to this film, and have been for a while. It should be something special.

    At the same time, it’s unfortunate that the studio that made it is now being dismantled, according to this article:

    Chomet also dismantled his studio after finishing “The Triplets of Belleville”, when he was living in Montreal. And now he’s leaving Edinburgh, too. I guess it works for him artistically to start anew each time, but I can’t help but think that setting up a new studio in a new location for each film you make has significant disadvantages, too. i.e. “The Illusionist” was finished years behind schedule…

  • Tsimone Tse Tse

    Like Tati, this looks so gentle and so sweet.

    Yet I found myself laughing & saying “Please don’t show me the Scotsman’s arse, please don’t show me the Scotman’s arse”

  • Tracey Watford

    It has been said that Tati wrote the Illusionist as an appology to his eldest daughter who he had abandoned during the second world war. Chomet it appears has been rather spiteful in not disclosing this information and why Tati originally wrote the screen play.

    Looks nice but reviews so far seem to only concentrate on the way it looks and nothing about the story which appears, like Triplets, to have developed into a dark nostalgic stroll. Does it have a market, who is it’s intended audience?

  • ZAR

    Ah, Chomet has done it again. :)

    Really looking forward to see his new movie!

    On another note, I remember how disappointed I was when I bought my HD-DVD-player and some two weeks later Toshiba pulled the plug on this format.

    But then I got the French release of Triplettes of Belleville on HD-DVD (the only HD-release to this day) and that somehow makes it all good again. ;)

  • Steve Gattuso

    The top of my list for films to see. Beautiful work, with an elegant simplicity that stands apart from the rest of this year’s offerings.

  • Dave O.

    Lovely. I can’t wait.

  • [Note from Cartoon Brew: comment deleted at request of author]

  • The BS Detective

    Re; Tracey Watford.

    “Chomet it appears has been rather spiteful in not disclosing this information and why Tati originally wrote the screen play.”

    I don’t think you understand the meaning of the word ‘spiteful’ because I can’t believe you would want to believe that Chomet maliciously set out to hurt the feelings of Tati’s surviving relatives.

    I have heard this so called ‘controversy’ repeated a few times recently – it seems to have spread from a pathetically sensationalist article in the Guardian which contains the following;

    ‘The script of the L’illusionniste, they say, was Tati’s response to the shame of having abandoned his first child and it remains the only public recognition of her existence. They accuse Chomet of attempting to airbrush out their painful family legacy again.

    “The sabotaging of Tati’s original L’illusionniste script, without recognising his troubled intentions, so that it resembles little more than a grotesque, eclectic, nostalgic homage to its author is the most disrespectful act,” claims Richard McDonald, Tati’s grandson.’

    As a director Chomet would have been “attempting” to create the most interesting film he could. If that meant changes to the script, so be it. He has no responsibility to inform the films audience about its origins.

    It seems to me that some people who latch onto this non story and insist on repeating it are, perhaps themselves spiteful towards Chomet and his talent.

    As for the comment on it’s ‘intended audience’ and it’s ‘market’ – give me strength.

  • e

    Wow Victor that’s a ‘funny’ story!

    I was lucky enough to work on Illusionist in London as part of a back-up crew helping to get the film finished – the quality of the work coming from the Edinburgh studio was nothing short of jaw dropping in its artistic achievement. Paul Dutton and his very talented crew should be applauded.

    I think it’s a real shame that Disney rehired the same old artists to animate on Frog – I admire Deja, Goldberg, Henn et al for their work in animation over the years but Frog looked so generic and tired – and that’s in part due to the fact that the same old animators worked on it, using their same old acting patterns and expressions etc. as opposed to a completely new set of animators coming in and stamping their own look and take on the Disney formula. DWA’s opening for Kung Fu Panda was far more daring in its approach and was all the better for it and this is the direction 2D animation needs to – and can – go into.

    Whilst I cannot speak for the story, Illusionist feels so fresh and vibrant, created by a new generation of artists forging a new way for people to appreciate 2D Animation. I really hope it gets the exposure and attention it deserves.

  • gieger

    Chomet has openly said to be paying homage too Tati with his adaptation of the Illusionist so then surely it would be correct to disclose the origins of the script as its author had intended?

    If that is not the story Chomet wanted to tell then why did he not write something of his own that would have been more appropriate as a personal homage to Tati?

    As for a non-story, Tati having a child that he had disowned is surely quite a revealing insight into a man so celebrated for his gentle humane portrayal of the world.

    What has been expressed on here by people who actually worked on it indicates that Chomet’s involvement, for whatever reason, was very limited and he exploited young enthusiastic talent for his own endeavours. At Berlin no credits were shown at the end of the screening so can it be presumed that if you weren’t one of the 40 people on stage then you are not going get a credit for your contribution? The whole production appears to have been a fine example of gross mismanagement.

  • “As for a non-story, Tati having a child that he had disowned is surely quite a revealing insight into a man so celebrated for his gentle humane portrayal of the world.”

    What I get from this sentence (and other similar ones posted in the comments to various articles about this film) is that there are people who have a chip on their shoulder (perhaps for a good reason) who wish to tarnish Tati’s according-to-them ‘undeservedly-clean’ reputation, and do it through the vehicle of this film.

    For this purpose, they are currently trying to flame up controversy among bystanders and discredit this film’s director. Note that nobody before the commenter posting as “gieger” said that Chomet’s involvement was “very limited” (only that Paul Dutton may arguably have done more) or that “he exploited young enthusiastic talent for his own endeavours” (isn’t that basically a director’s job description, anyway?). It cannot be presumed, as ‘gieger’ insinuates, that the film in its FINAL form will be released with no ending credits. In suggesting this, it seems clear to me that ‘gieger’ is trying to rouse an angry crowd which he or she will then attempt to steer in a certain direction.

    I support the idea of giving a screen credit to the inspiration behind the screenplay, but I don’t think that deceit or blackmail aimed against Chomet are honorable ways to go about it.

    It is quite possible that Chomet had no idea about that part of the history of the screenplay when he read it, and that he found out about it (IF he did) too late to structure the film around it.

  • gieger

    Eh Victor before pulling his message had commented that Chomet’s was hardly ever seen at the studio. It is impossible to meaningfully direct if you are not present however great you are.

    Who is discrediting Tati? The subject of his daughter and the Illusionist are linked and therefore make a worthy contribution to the conversation irrespective of your moral stance. Does it not do more harm to Tati’s reputation if you don’t acknowledge events that led him to writing what must have been a very sensitive script?

  • The clips look great!
    Seems much more restrained than ‘The Triplettes of Belleville’, but it looks and sounds like he’s being more selective with all that craziness this time around- really showcasing it for when it’ll best serve the story and we, the audience. I’m looking forward to seeing what Chomet has in store for us this time.

  • Paul D

    This has got to be addressed.

    This is undeniably Sylvain’s movie. It would not be what it is without his direction. For my part, I am grateful to Sylvain for the opportunity I was given on this picture. I, along with the rest of the team, worked extremely hard and am enormously happy with the result and the critical acclaim it has received.

    Now everybody go see the movie because it is beautiful!


  • gieger, I actually saved Victor’s post on my computer before it was deleted. It does not say that “Chomet was hardly ever seen at the studio” (that sounds more like a criticism for Wes Anderson who apparently directed “The Fantastic Mr. Fox” while being physically on another continent). Maybe you have inside information to that effect, but it’s not what Victor wrote.

    It might have been worse for Victor to delete his post after the fact, because now some people can spread rumours about what he said that are worse than what he did actually say (which was more funny than outrageous… and goodness knows most film productions have their horror stories).

    Sure, it does “make a worthy contribution to the conversation”. Has anyone asked Chomet about this, prior to criticizing him? If he’s aware of it, maybe the decision isn’t his alone to make. Hypothetically, if someone is specifically AGAINST the idea of including that screen credit, it may not even be Chomet but someone else who can influence the fate of this film.

  • Erik

    101 dalmation! yes, i also get that feel. but there is an element of serenity added to it–breathtaking, really. i love it!

  • I was a little impulsive about my comment here earlier. So just let me say this. I’m not saying that I was unhappy to work on this film it just was extremely difficult. I met great people, incredible Artists and enjoyed the challenge very much. And so, I’m grateful for the chance I got to work on this masterpiece.
    Further I want to say that the Animation Director/ Assistant Director PAUL DUTTON did extremely much for this film to be made. He is the one who held it together throughout the whole time and deserves a lot of praise along with many other Artists.

    -Victor Ens-

  • Billy Wrights Boots

    The forces of nature must be working hard here. Tati’s original script is transfered to Scotland and his remaining relatives are called McDonald?


  • greg m.

    Yes, Paul was the ones we animators worked with.

    Interesting to me, is the press coming out now about a daughter relationship in Tati’s personal life, which WILL help the audience to better understand the film relationship then… …because without THAT in mind, you NEVER would get that from watching the film.

    Oh, and be on the lookout for Victor (Mini-Milt) Ens’s Drunk guy character!

  • Richard Gadd

    This looks so nice – really looking forwards to this one

  • Mani T

    All works of fiction whether it is Shakespeare’s King Lear, Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, Chaplin’s The Great Dictator, Fellini’s Amarcord, Coppola’s Godfather or Lasseter’s Toy Story have their origins in reality. Tati was the master of extracting events from the world around him that it does nothing but dilute his creative genius by not recognising his poignant source.

  • Ronnie Wood

    It’s not what you steal, but how you steal it?

    I bet Tati is looking down from the heavens with his hat tipped at a jounty angle because of this interpretation of his genius?

    No one actually cares about the dead, what they were thinking or preserving their memory. I feel incredibly sorry for the man, who is even unlucky years after the curtain fell

  • Ronnie Wood

    song going around in my head “The Statue” by Brel

  • JJ

    @ niffiwan

    Your comment just reminded me of Wes Andersons, Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday inspired advert staring Mr Brad Pitt as Hulot. Very cringe worthy.

    My vote’s with supporting the origins of the script, artistic integrity should be paramount.

  • I love the poster for this thing, it’s font and style are so similar to a Winsor McCay comic!

  • Rohtwiler

    Having worked on several features, including this….I must say that …like any other project this one too had its shitfalls (a wee bit more than pitfalls). But in the end, it was a great attempt in spite of all the ups and downs and the the whole crew put in thier heart and soul in making this movie. Its quality and feel is a testament to the creativity and skills of the artists that breathed life into the characters and meticulously recreated the charm of 60’s Scotland. Finally, if not for Sylvan Chomet, his style, craftsmanship and everything he did to build a team of artists and crew, this movie would not have existed, as it is. Kudos to the management and everyone else that thought it was worth investing time and effort to making this movie. As for arm-chair pundits who want to wax eloquent and debate the pros and cons…have fun..but be nice! :)

  • Very excited about this film. Congratulations to all who have bought it
    to the screen…..I can’t wait to see it.

  • anybody know of a “behind the scenes” deocumentary of this somewhere?

  • Paul D

    Rohtwiler has said it best.

  • JJ

    Arm-chair pundits, is that not the audience who ultimately decide the success or failure of any project?

    With what I have seen so far of the Illusionist I would suggest it is being over kindly praised, both the character animation and 3d elements look rather wooden and appear like cardboard cutout’s which never sit comfortably with the lush digitally rendered backdrops.

  • Tracey Watford

    Chomet: “The Illusionist was referring to himself,Tati, was too close, too deep to his most intimate feelings, Tati preferred to stay hidden behind the mask of Monsieur Hulot. If he chose to shoot his image, and then his career might have taken a completely different direction. ”

    So Chomet acknowledges how deeply personal Tati’s Illusionist was but can’t quite bring himself inform us exactly why.

    He must know the true sentiment of Tati as others seem quite aware of the scripts remorseful intentions.

    “He never filmed the Illusionist because it was too personal. It was about him and his estranged daughter.”

  • lamatin

    it’s a shame to see some of you judging an entire film when perhaps you’ve only seem snippets.It would be nicer if judgement was kept until the whole film was on general release.then feel free to judge as only then can you become an armchair pundit.

  • Maestro

    Mixed independent review of The Illusionist from its Berlin screening.

  • Looks like the first trailer for this film is in Russian:

    I must say that it looks beautiful.

  • this trailer took my breathe away, everything about it is beautiful. I can’t wait to see this story in full feature.