“The Illusionist” talkback

Illusionist

Sylvain Chomet’s The Illusionist opens today on 3 screens in the United States. They are:

Laemmle Royal (11523 Santa Monica Blvd., LA, CA 90025)
Showtimes (Sat/Sun): 1:00, 3:10, 5:20, 7:30, 9:40

Landmark Sunshine Cinema (143 E. Houston St., NY, NY 10002)
Showtimes (Sat/Sun): 11:00am, 1:00, 3:00, 5:10, 7:10, 9:10, 11:15 (last screening only on Sat)

City Cinemas Paris Theatre (4 W. 58th St., NY, NY 10019)
Showtimes: 12:00, 2:00, 4:00, 6:00, 8:00, 10:00

If you see (or have seen) the film, let us know what you think. This post will serve as our official “talkback” thread for the film.


  • http://www.segaltoons.com Steve Segal

    As a fan of Tripletes and his short The Old lady and the Pigeons, I was disappointed. Some of the shots are beautiful and there are some subtly funny bits. The life of a second rate stage entertainer is skillfully depicted, but there was too much reliance on rotoscoping and the story seems to meander. If you love Jacques Tati you will probably enjoy this film. I like Tati’s work, but I wish this was more Chomet and less Tati.

    • Paul D

      This film in NOT rotoscoped. What’s up on the screen is the result of amazing hard work and talented animators.

      • http://hand-drawn-animation.blogspot.com David Nethery

        Paul,

        The work that you all did on this film is outstanding. I loved it.
        (saw it in November at the special CTN-X screening, and can’t wait to see it again)

      • http://www.segaltoons.com Steve Segal

        I apologize for my assumption. And kudos for some amazing animation.

  • http://www.michaelspornanimation.com/splog/ Michael Sporn

    A great film, in my opinion. One of the best (live action OR animated) of the year. Though the Hollywood contingent would probably argue with me about that.

  • Darkblade

    I saw the film. I wont say much but I will say that you people will love this film.

  • Smudge

    The Illusionist was the best film I saw at Ottawa this year. Can’t wait until it opens in a theatre that’s within driving distance so I can see it again (and hopefully bring friends who have been listening to me rave about this film for two months).

  • a guy who worked on it says…

    there was no rotoscoping on this project, stop it now,
    there is just some good animation in it …OK :)

    what a blast it was to work on it too! A dream come true!
    Once in a decade or two opportunity. I am proud to have
    been a part of it. Its a good film too. I am however
    unsure the north american audiences raised on bubble gum
    animation culture will get its subtle story. Compared to
    fast paced contemporary animated fireworks, this pic might just fly past people heads without much notice.
    The general dumbing down of animated productions makes this film seem like an old fashioned circus freak show in a sea of generic, botoxed corporate films. Hats off to the whole team. Enjoy!

    • Steve Menke

      Be assured that some of us North Americans look for (and forward to) “slower paced” films, animated or otherwise. Rapid-fire shots/editing are no compensation for competent artistry. Looking forward to Sony Pictures Classics’ nationwide release!

    • http://winged-elf-girl.deviantart.com Lauren Rasmussen

      Not all bubble-gum Americans enjoy being bombarded with the fast-faced fast-talking animated films that the largest/most publicized studios here create. But I won’t talk about my opinion of American cinema – I saw The Illusionist at the Savannah Film Festival a month ago, and absolutely loved it; both animation and story. My only qualm is the CG pan scene over the rabbit near the end of the film – to me, as an animator, it stuck out like a sore thumb. Most of the other CG integrates well. But despite this nitpick, I think it may be my favorite film this year.

      I wrote a more in-depth review just after seeing the film, if anyone cares to read.
      http://wingedelfgirl.blogspot.com/2010/11/lillusionniste.html

      • K Carr

        Personally I thought most of the character animation never sat easy with the backgrounds and mostly looked like cardboard cut outs similar in appearance to 2d movies which have been cheaply converted to 3d.

  • d. harry

    Yes, hats off to the crew, but if the story was any “subtler” it would have put me to sleep. Animation A+, Story D

  • Karen

    Some nice animation here and there, but mostly characterless, and monotonous. The film, overall, feels alternately rushed and unfinished on many levels. The direction is very unfocused–and in the case of an adaptation of a Tati film, it’s probably the single biggest weakness of the film. It’s also a film that, unfortunately, feels a LOT longer than it is–not a good thing.

  • http://www.colorfulanimationexpressions.blogspot.com Oswald Iten

    I liked it very much. It was a lot less bizarre than “Triplettes de Belleville” but turned out to be really beautiful. While many animated features have clever storytelling or are well written and still fulfill mainstream expectations of what an animated film is supposed to be, it’s rare to think of beauty regarding the story and not only the visuals.

    Like in a Tati film, the focus of the acting is on whole-body-movements with understated facial expressions. Surprisingly the movements themselves are rather subtle than broad.

    The artificial language didn’t work too well for me, I would have preferred either mute characters or real language words where necessary, but this is a minor flaw in a film that’s poignant but not in a manipulative way (like “Toy Story 3″, for example, which I also liked but for different reasons).

  • Hamilton

    The point that Alice seems to believe the magician’s tricks are real and not stagecraft wasn’t made nearly as clearly onscreen as it was in the film’s press kit. Supremely ironic how the subject matter concerns a dying medium and this film’s characters were animated in hand drawn 2D. Some of the finest stylized anatomical animation done anywhere, any time. Absolutely worth seeing even though at this point subtle, genuinely adult storytelling is an acquired taste.

    • Nancy Beiman

      Friends who worked on this film told me about Alice’s belief that the magic was real, but I did not get that impression from watching the film.

  • http://hand-drawn-animation.blogspot.com David Nethery

    I saw it at the special screening at the CTN Expo in November. It was outstanding and I can’t wait to see it again. Kudos to all involved.

  • Hans W.

    The “Triplettes de Belleville” was a better film as far as design and story is concerned, but go and see “The Illusionist” if you like 2D animation which is made with so much LOVE for the medium, wonderful backgrounds and a true hommage to the great Tati.
    I kept wondering why this wasn’t done in live action, though, as almost all the characters were very ‘human’, compared to the more outrageous designs used in “Les Triplettes”… I agree with Steve when he says he would have wished ‘a little more Chomet and less Tati’. I also loved his short “The old lady and the pigeons”.

  • Dig

    A beautiful film, to be sure, and everyone who loves animation should go and see it. Unfortunately I just didn’t care for the characters and it all seemed pointless at the end. The great animation and stunning visuals aren’t enough to carry this film.

  • Was My Face Red

    It’s sad that a slower paced film leaves people feeling bored – and I felt that feeling too, so maybe my body clock has been sped up by Hollywood story telling as well? On the other hand it’s a problem I’ve had with Tati before, with M. Hulet’s Holiday, but maybe it’s just Chomet being faithful to his source.

    Two other problems…

    * Several woman I know who have seen it found the girl very exploititive of the magician and really didn’t like her one bit, which stifled any other emotions it might have evoked.

    * A lot of the magical tricks did look genuinely magical, which eats away at the idea that the girl belives they are real but they are not.

    One big plus…

    * The character animation is amazing and so free of the usual cliches it’s like discovering a new language.

    Just to declare an interest, I wrote the one minute of dialogue in The Old Lady And The Pigeons and… hell, I’m not declaring an interest, I’m just boasting!

  • Nancy Beiman

    It’s a beautiful film, but it should have taken MORE from Tati’s book…and used dialogue throughout the film. Tati himself rarely spoke in his films, but everyone else did. The little girl comes across as a selfish, materialistic type because she does not speak much, and when she does, it is in Gaelic.
    Giving her dialogue would have fleshed out her character much more, and not much would have been needed.
    The idea of the old fashioned entertainment dying is conveyed very well, but the character relationships are not strong.
    I would give this film an A in art direction and animation but only an average grade in story.

    • d. harry

      Tati character comes across as a pervert with the girl, when peeping in on her as she sleeps. I couldn’t figure out what the heck that relationship was about while watching the film. Later I read an interview where Chomet says that this girl is supposed to remind Tati of his daughter… …uhhhhh, okay – but that certainly doesn’t come across in the film.

  • Nancy Beiman

    I have to hand it to the animators…you got Tati, to a T. The movements, the facial expressions…just perfect. He was a sympathetic and likable character. I wish I could say the same about the girl.

    • http://asteriskpix.blogspot.com richard o’connor

      I agree with your assessment, Nancy.

      There’s a lot commendable in the film, but it’s strength is the animation more than the narrative and character development.

      I will say that if you think of the girl (who, I agree, is as passive and repulsive as the little fat kid in Les Triplettes) as the titualar “Illusionist” it gives the story a little more something.

  • Charles Keagle

    I saw it at the CTN screening and loved it. Certain elements of the story left me confused, but by all means go see this film.

  • Clement Moore

    The magician buys a girl in tatters who scrubs floors for a living a pair of new shoes. It doesn’t track that she goes with him because she is captivated by his magic tricks and perceives them as real. She follows him because he does something for her and she believes that he will take care of her. Perhaps this would not have been deemed so materialistic in the fifties, when Tati wrote the script, but it does today. Yet in the end the illusionist literally transforms Alice’s life, enabling her to meet someone who would have never given her a second glance had he seen her in her original situation. In this sense, the magician creates a powerful illusion in Alice that opens real doors for her. Magic? It’s up to the viewer to decide.

    • Dig

      Well put Clement. But what was unsatisfying for me was that we weren’t invested enough in the girl to make it a gratifying experience seeing her transformation. And the magician didn’t appear to be transformed by the girl at all, which I think would have helped. In fact, if anything he becomes more cynical, deciding to give the little child on the train the pencil stub, rather than the new pencil. Or did I read that wrong?

      • Mike Luzzi

        I completely agree with both assessments. I do wish that the moment on the train were more hopeful but it left me with an overall sense of gloom leaving the theatre. I had wished he gave her the long pencil and then it would have showed that he had been affected by Alice. It seems that he had initially intended to give her the long pencil and the fact that he took any interest in the girl at all may be a sign of hope for his character.

  • Rezz

    I really enjoyed this film, incredibly charming. everyone should check it out if they can.

  • Hermes

    The Illusionist becomes disillusioned after a lifetime of creating deft fantasies for others who don’t appreciate them, so in the end he admits to harsh reality: there is no magic. This is a very French kind of poignancy, a sigh with cigarette smoke. The film never hits you over the head with its themes and you have to watch closely to catch, for example, the moment when he knows the relationship with his young friend cannot continue because she is becoming a desirable young woman. This subtlety can be taken for “poor staging.”

  • K Carr

    The relationship between the Magician and Alice does not make any senses. The movie is presented as a “Love Letter from a Father to his Daughter” yet doesn’t explain why there is such initial distance between the father and daughter figures in the movie. Why would young Alice take flight with the aging magician she knows little about? Where are Alice’s parents? Is it not a little creepy that an old man should lure a child away from her home? The story doesn’t make sense at all.

    The animation might well be quite solid in a quaint manner but the directing of the story is far from extraordinary.

  • http://seijunsuzuki.blogspot.com David

    I saw this at The Toronto International Film Festival in September at it’s North Americian premiere. I think I admire this film more then love it. It adheres so strongly to Tati’s simple and old fashioned film making that it dripps with so much sugary sentimentality your brain rots. The actual charater animation is so real, and so full of life that it is in complete contrast with the boring color palette and uninspired background design. It does help that many of the scenes in the film seemed to have be rushed due to what I would imagine are budget and deadline concerns. An example of this is in the lush crowd scenes where from shot to shot people go from great personality animation to completely still images.

    It appears to me that the director got in over his head and the producers cut corners to make ends meet. What we are left with are glimpses of a great movie that just din’t seem to come together. If you had any interest in seeking out The Illusionist still due, but don’t go in expecting the bold surprise that was Triplets.

  • David Breneman

    It got a pretty good review in the Christmas Eve edition of the Wall Street Journal – not exactly the venue where you’d expect animation geeks to hang out.

  • http://victor-ens.blogspot.com/ Victor Ens
  • Spencer

    Tati’s films for me have always been more about observing the characters in the contemporary societies surrounding him. There’s something personal about his work that he shares with his audience that’s at times hilarious, always poignant, and I’ve never doubted it. Sometimes you have to trust the storyteller in knowing that he’s going to take you somewhere. Whether you like it or not, try to understand where the film is taking you. After Triplets, when I heard Chomet was directing a Tati script, I had a conniption. I thought it was the perfect combination, and I’m still having a conniption waiting to see it.

    Unfortunately, gems like this don’t come to Miami so quickly. We have to wait till Jan 28th.

  • http://www.brainfarto.com Zoë Moss

    I have never felt so happy upon seeing such a melancholy film. This is probably the most interesting animated film I’ve seen this year! I’ve been telling people to see it non-stop and I will continue to tell people the same thing. While Triplets is a fine film, I feel that “The Illustionist” is a much more mature and beautiful step forward.

  • http://Bigdaddyanimation.com Big Daddy

    Beautifully animated and I thought successfully used pantomime in most of the animation. Remarkable! I would have loved to work on this film. I think subtitles may have helped the story a bit, but I got the thrust of it with no problem. Great job!

  • Hermes

    It’s like one of those French art films you saw in college: slightly boring and occasionally confusing, but touching in some indefinable way. Chomet wanted to become an “auteur,” but like some fancy French wine, “The Illusionist” is an acquired taste.

  • steven

    the dialogue (lack of) was great, the character animation was amazing.
    i feel the plot kicked a lot of people in the face.
    girl mooches off magician for things.
    magician works hard to buy stuff for girl.
    magician, clown, ventriloquist all sad and loose their magic.
    ‘magic does not exist’
    girl finds love.

    thats just whats on the surface, i think a lot of people who are letting these things get in the way are really missing the point of the film. The ‘big picture’ or the ‘message’ or the ‘point’ of the film? im not sure yet, but certainly a pleasant experience with many happy and sad parts, im glad it does not have typical dreams come true happy ending.
    this film is a quite smirk and a puff of smoke

    • http://4eyedanimation.com Joe Corrao

      well he says there is no magic in his note…but he turned her from a naive lil girl to a young woman…that was the trick

  • http://www.sexymecha.com Hal

    I think its really important to note that the unproduced screenplay Chomet adapted is likely Tati’s apology to the daughter he disowned at the high point of his carer – I guess its a minor scandal Chomet attempted this film. It makes the undercurrents running through the film more overt, and pinpoints the melancholy of the film.
    As for the film itself, the animation and staging of every shot is breathtaking, they utilize the composition of every frame to maximum effect. I that way it does remind me of Tati, but Chomet’s talent for exaggeration certainly shines through beyond even the charaters. I love the way the European cities were exaggerated JUST ENOUGH to push reality askew and convey the feeling of Europe (instead of just depicting it visually), and the animation was beyond top notch – the exaggerated movements push the performances to places I think Tati would push his physical performace to if not constrained by reality.
    I think Chomet’s greatest strength is that he doesn’t blunt the edges of reality for his characters, which takes a maturity many conventional animated features refuse to develop. Chomet makes art, and while we had some great animated entertinment this year he made the best animated FILM of 2010. Just that simple.

  • Helen

    But disturbingly Chomet refuses to publicly concede that Tati had wrote The Illusionist as an apology to his eldest daughter he had abandoned during the German occupation of Europe even though he shamelessly rides on the crest of a wave of Tati’s remorse for a daughter who is still alive today and the only living member of the Tatischeff dynasty.

    Born to a Czech/Austrian dancer, Tati’s eldest daughter, Helga Marie-Jeanne grew up mainly in orphanage and her life in many ways parallels the story of Alice.

    Chomet handling of this issue is extraordinarily distasteful proclaiming lately that

    “The story between a father and a daughter — I bring that from my relationship with my daughter, Camille, who is now 18,”

    http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/la-ca-the-illusionist-20101226,0,7685100.story

    Even though his and Sony’s own promotional material for The Illusionist makes the clear declaration that the, “ script for THE ILLUSIONIST was originally written by French comedy genius and cinema legend Jacques Tati as a love letter from a father to his daughter, but never produced”.

    And that

    “He (Tati) is actually on record saying THE ILLUSIONIST was far too serious a subject for his persona and he chose to make the classic Play Time instead”.

    http://www.sonyclassics.com/theillusionist/presskit.pdf

    Chomet is one twisted guy caught up in his own bitter lies.

  • andrew osmond

    Oh for heavens sake, will these single-issue zealots ever shut up? To me, their wretched campaign amounts to one side of a family trying to squelch and erase the memory of another (deceased) side of a family – far more distateful, in my view, than anything Chomet’s alleged to have done with Tati’s script.

    I would have respected them if they had simply made Tati’s treatment of Helga widely known, as indeed it should be – she indeed deserves ‘respectful acknowledgement,’ as her son puts it. Instead, her ever-more rabid supporters seem determined to tear Sophie Tatischeff out of the picture books and smear anyone who does not swallow their ‘reading’ of The Illusionist 100%.

    • dave

      Don’t be so bloody stupid.

      Nobody is interested in tearing Sophie Tatischeff out of the ‘picture books’ at all.

      But what really is of concern appertains as to precisely why Chomet & Deschamps et al, seem determined to do so with Helga. You rightly surmise that she does indeed deserve respectful acknowledgment – why then, in every interview conducted by Chomet has he not addressed this easily resolved issue? It would be very simple to address this, but instead Chomet has continued to squirm and baulk at the very suggestion and merest notion that Tati’s script could have anything to do with Helga.

      Why does this continue to be the case when highly compelling evidence exists in the form of Richard McDonald’s heartfelt narrative which I assume by now we are all aware of?

      The problem it seems is that people like yourself are happy to be spoonfed and don’t seek to ask questions themselves. For myself, I personally wonder whether Deschamp’s is not, as he claims to be, the legal heir of the Tati estate, but in fact the estates owner. An estate for which potentially he has little right to possess ownership of, especially in light of Tati’s remaining family.

      However true, legal or watertight Deschamp’s claims may be – this summation of the situation would certainly provide a highly tangible reason as to why Deschamp’s and Chomet have persistently continued to distance themselves to the point (at times) of denying the existence of Tati’s estranged family.

      So why not try putting yourself in Richard McDonald’s position – what would you do Andrew if your family was being air-brushed from history, and not just once in the case of Helga, but now twice, and not just by her Father, as if that is not bad enough- but by people seeking to align themselves with the Jacques Tati myth at the expense of those biologically tied. Come on Andrew, I’d like to hear what you would do?

      So you see, this is not about erasing Sophie, far from, but it is about the respectful acknowledgment of Helga which, for reasons best known to themselves has so far been conspicuous in its absence.

      Why?

  • side show bob

    Do you not think using a deceased mans personal letter to his estranged daughter, as a way of making a cartoon and money isn’t slighty distasteful? I haven’t read anywhere that Sophie Taticheff has been “air brushed out of history” She was responsible for “Forza Bastia” possibly the greatest football film ever made?

  • andrew osmond

    If I was being spoonfed, as Dave claims, then I would accept the ‘Helga’ party’s arguments without question. They’ve been plastered all over the British media and websites like this one for the last six months.

    I have read (and re-read) Richard McDonald’s testimony at
    http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert/pages-for-twitter/the-shame-of-jacques-tati.html
    Let’s assume that McDonald’s account of the history of Tati, Herta and Helga is entirely accurate (although I have yet to see any corroboration of the details from independent sources). In that case, the story should certainly be known, as I agreed in my post above.

    However, do not think McDonald has demonstrated, beyond reasonable doubt, that The Illusionist – the original Tati sacript – was inspired by Helga. It _may_ have been. For me, though, McDonald’s arguments are far from conclusive. Here’s an obvious point: McDonald himself describes Tati as a deplorable cad. If so, isn’t it possible that Tati put Herta and Helga out of his mind completely, and concentrated what affections he had on Sophie?

    IMO, McDonald, like many of his online supporters, insists on presenting speculation about the script as fact, then mounting shrill campaigns against Chomet, who doesn’t see things their way.

    For anyone reading this thread, I would suggest thay go through McDonald’s testimony themselves at the above link, then make up their own minds (or not, if they find it inconclusive). Fair enough, Dave? It seems that anyone with a room-temperature IQ will agree with you, so you’ve nothing to worry about

    • dave

      Avoidance noted, and I will happily move to secure the grounds of the argument from which you’ve so swiftly retreated.

      Namely that of: ‘What would Andrew do were he to find either himself or his family in a similar situation to that which Richard McDonald finds his himself?

      Are we to assume that he would sit numbly on his hands, emasculated, whilst the slanted agenda’s of others conspire to lock tight and shut you out of an illustrious, albeit pained family history for which you are intrinsically tied but shunted aside – or would you strive to set the record straight through any means possible?

      I would be interested to know and await your considered response.

      With regards to the respectful acknowledgment of Helga, a subject for which we are both in harmony and full accord that this should be the case, and yet it has not, and never has been apparent within any of the publicity or interviews surrounding this piece.

      For my part, I find it acceptable for Chomet to purport the supposition that the script is an apology to the younger daughter (Sophie), whom, according to some (including Chomet), Tati had neglected during her formative years. However, this possibility, when held against the plight of his elder daughter (Helga), whom Tati abandoned in infancy somehow fails to hold any volume of water by sheer weight of comparison.

      It must be noted, as Richard McDonald has taken care to explain that not only was Sophie not neglected during her formative years, she was actively encouraged by her father to work closely with him during many of his works. This information is freely available online or elsewhere and speaks far less of parental neglect, and more of a close and loving paternal bond between a father and a much doted daughter.

      I accept too that everybody has the right to be wrong, including Chomet, but to be so wilfully obtuse in the face of such unremitting evidence to the contrary, and yet still persist in pedalling a fatally flawed supposition whilst simultaneously and persistently railroading an obvious truth and a far more tangible possibility regarding the true intent of the script, seems somehow perverse in the extreme. So it is for this reason, and this alone that I felt compelled to suggest that you, Andrew, seem content to be spoon-fed the three-line whip on the Chomet Party-Line.

      So the question is this; why has Chomet (a clearly intelligent individual) persistently and angrily continued to eschew the very notion that Tati’s intended apology could be for anybody other than Sophie? How inconvenient would it have been for Tati’s remaining family to be involved in some small capacity, no matter how nominal, and not as they have been, relegated to an inconsequential footnote at the arse-end of the Jacques Tati myth. Would it not have been a poignant and symbolic gesture in ‘respectful acknowledgment’ of Helga, if, for example, she had been allowed the simple honour of treading the red carpet on The Illusionist’s opening nite in Edinburgh? This, we remember, being a film not only based on an un-produced script by her father, but one whereby the very real possibility exists that the script was wrote for her in the form of a highly emotive apology for her abandonment as a small child. A film for which Tati himself felt too sensitive and emotionally frought for him to complete in his own life-time.

      It is Chomet’s failure to address Helga’s plight , churlishly dismissing it out of hand during many of his interviews that has opened him to criticism and ridicule. Both this, and the far more serious allegation that Chomet, in conjunction with Deschamp’s and the Tati Estate are complicit inasmuch that they both have something to protect and to hide. Chomet’s myriad of conflicting accounts as to how he came by the script, all freely accessible on the internet if you know where to look, is revealing in itself and leads one to wonder why it is, in Helga’s case at least, they are seemingly and pathetically intent on running away from an old lady like mugger’s in the nite.

      By way of conclusion, I for one applaud McDonald’s David & Goliath stance throughout this entire episode, hailing him as an inspiration for anyone wishing to upset the establishment’s apple-cart of belligerent half-truths and intricate lies. It is refreshing therefore that someone is prepared to take a stance against this, so whilst McDonald may not have won he war – Sylvain Chomet certainly knows he’s been in a fight.

      For further reading on the Tati script controversy, and somebody else who’s been in a fight of late, please refer to here: Film Four’s Anton Bitel’s, seconds out, points dismissal:

      http://www.littlewhitelies.co.uk/interviews/sylvain-chomet-11941

  • andrew osmond

    Re-reading my last comment in my previous post, which was meant as gentle irony, I realise it could be taken as an obnoxious insult. I should have said: ‘It seems that anyone with an _above_ room-temperature IQ will agree with you.’

    I have a serious question: Has anyone here actually read Tati’s original Illusionist script? If so, where?

    I think quite a lot of anger about Chomet’s animated version relates to the ending:

    SPOILER (I’ll try to minimise it)

    Throughout the film, the magician (who resembles Tati, and goes under his full name Tatischeff) is shown looking at a photograph that he keeps with him, though we can’t see what it shows. At the very end of the film (after the lights go out), we finally see the photo clearly. It shows a (drawn) picture of a baby girl. Next to the picture is a caption, ‘To Sophie Tatischeff.’

    Within the story, the implication is that the magician was kind to Alice because he sees his daughter in her. It also implies that the film is effectively ‘about’ Sophie Tatischeff, linking the fictional story with Tati’s real life.

    Two questions – Did the original Tati script contain any written dedication to Sophie (or, more ambiguously, ‘To my daughter’)? Also, is the detail about the photo present in Tati’s script? I would be very interested to know; some supporting evidence would be especially welcome.

  • side show bob

    Another question; why did Tati set the original script in Prague? Did he have some kind of connection with that city?

    • andrew osmond

      ‘In the [Illusionist] script, the reservoir of exploitable naivety is located in a generic Eastern Europe, not just because Tati imagined Ruritania still existing somewhere beyond the Danube but because he was negotiating at that time with the Czech authorities to make a co-production agreement, and had visited Prague several times with that in mind.’

      From Tati biographer David Bellos’s negative review of the film at
      http://www.sensesofcinema.com/2010/feature-articles/the-illusionist/

      Yes, I know perfectly well what Sideshow Bob is getting at; one of Herta’s dual nationalities was Czech. Interesting, yes; conclusive, far from it, IMO. Frankly, I’d find it more convincing if Tati had set the script in Paris, where his relationship with Herta actually took place, according to McDonald’s account.

      • Greg

        The original script was setup as a journey between Paris and Prague.

  • side show bob

    My above comment was written at 18 degrees centigrade. Thanks Andrew for your contribution to the civil rights movement?

  • CF_Burn

    I’m far more inclined to believe the account of the family than individuals who know nothing of their private life be it Andrew Osmond or Sylvain Chomet.

    The only person from the Tatischeff family who Chomet has spoken to is Richard McDonald to whom Chomet conceded to knowing that Tati had wrote The Illusionist as a “personal letter to his daughter””.

    McDonald’s letter does not describe “Tati as a deplorable cad” his assessment of his grandfather is as a “gangling clown who would go on to charm the world with laughter in the way he ridiculed and questioned it”.

    Andrew you summarise that “Within the story, the implication is that the magician was kind to Alice because he sees his daughter in her. It also implies that the film is effectively ‘about’ Sophie Tatischeff, linking the fictional story with Tati’s real life”

    So you accept that Alice is not a fictional portrayal of Sophie Tatischeff. You say that the magician sees his own daughter in Alice. Who could be closer to the physicality/spirit of Sophie Tatischeff than Tati’s own estranged daughter, Sophie’s elder sister Helga whose life is clearly linked with the various strands of the Illusionist script. A script that starts off in and morns the passing of the cabaret circuit of Paris where Tati preformed on stage with Helga’s mother Herta. Sophie has no links with Tati’s years on the stage as she was born after he had already started his movie career.

    The Bellos review you link to concludes that “the story he tells is no more than the sketchily sentimental plotline of ‘L’Illusionniste’” that “Had Tati actually made this film, who knows what magic he would have added”?

    Scathingly adding that Chomet’s “film is a disaster”.

  • andrew osmond

    Dave – As I said in my first post to this thread, I’m all for McDonald using the renewed interest in Tati to publicise what happened to his family. I object to him parading around his (IMO) flimsy arguments about what The Illusionist ‘means’ as if they’re proven historical truths. You’re offended by Chomet dismissing the idea that The Illusionist has anything to do with Helga; but I see McDonald as far more dogmatic and offensive in his bids to blot out Sopie – who, of course, cannot reply.

    On McDonald’s own account, Tati drafted the Illusionist between 1955 and 1959. For all I know, maybe Tati was working especially hard in those years, and becoming increasingly aware that he was missing Sophie growing up. Perhaps that was _why_ he invited Sophie to help him on Playtime, released in 1967 (8 years after the Illusionist was written). All pure conjecture, but quite possible.

    Burn – Frankly, I’d be _most_ inclined to believe the findings of someone who plainly had no vested interest in the subject. That excludes both Chomet and McDonald.

    • dave

      Andrew, if, in setting the record straight you are suggesting that Richard McDonald has deliberately sought to dismiss Sophie Tatischeff I would be very interested to see your evidence for this.

      At what point is McDonald being, as you say: ”far more dogmatic and offensive in his bids to blot out Sophie – who, of course, cannot reply”, because from what I can deduce, from all the sources I have read, this could not be further from the truth. This is simply because this isn’t, and has never been about the castigation of Sophie, but about the elevation and ‘respectful acknowledgment’ of Helga.

      But, as we’ve preposterously strayed onto the very nature of ‘offense’ and what could be deemed offensive – I would be interested to know just how offensive you would consider being abandoned by a father in infancy (child abuse, and I’m sure you don’t sanction child abuse Andrew), and then casually dismissed by his estate as an elderly lady whilst institutions such as the BFI (Andrew?), and individuals shamefully seek to piggy-back a ride, cuckoo-like in the stolen nest of the Jacques Tati myth at the expense of those biologically tied.

      Quite distasteful isn’t it, and in short – you may have to retreat once more to far less shakier grounds on which to base your argument Andrew.

  • http://4eyedanimation.com Joe Corrao

    The film was a metaphor for the state of the animation industry…the old ways vs the new ways…the “magic” he made is dieing out…and when he sets his rabbit free we get a huge 3D pan….

  • Swee’Pea

    “No vested interest in the subject”: LMAO Andrew Osmond and his chum Anton Bitel both work for the British Film Institutes (BFI), Sight and Sound Magazine. The BFI helped Chomet set up his failed Edinburgh studio and hope to gain from any accolades that just so happened to be bestowed upon Chomet’s UK developed movie.

    This alone goes a long way to explain both Osmond and Bitel’s “dogmatic” largely failed attempts to discredit Richard McDonald and his account of his grandfathers L’Illusionniste/The Illusionist script, a heartfelt bittersweet apology from one of the greatest film directors of the twentieth century to his estranged daughter.

  • andrew osmond

    Swee’ Pea – Um, did we really? Gosh. I better get back to my scarred, white-cat stroking boss (it’s the boss who’s scarred, not the cat, she’s fine, a real beauty, called Tiddles, loves piranhas), in our hollowed-out Japanese volcano and tell him we’ve been rumbled. No doubt McDonald and his allies will be sliding down their ropes any moment.

    … hang on though, what’s your source? I can’t find anything online about our dastardly collusion. Of course, I’m far too evil to care about Helga getting due credit for the Illusionist, but I’d jolly well hope that the BFI (called SPECTRE for tax purposes) would get some! Mwahahaha!

    • Dave

      Evil criminal mastermind and open supporter of child neglect and abuse?

      Hey though, it was Andrew who first dismissed various vested interests despite his own very telling one. Pot/kettle/black – but at least the plot thickens faster than it does in The Illusionist….

      • Dave

        Ps – Avoidance noted:)

  • dave

    Well I never. That certainly goes a long way to explain the ‘black is white’ stance of Anton Bitel on LWL.

  • andrew osmond

    Um, I’m still waiting for someone to quote a _source_ for the ‘revelation’ that the BFI bankrolled Django Films (and no, I don’t count the delectable Mr. Ima Pseudonym’s post to this thread). Pretty please?

    Dave wins today’s ‘pitiful non sequitur’ prize, pretending that my comparison of Chomet’s vs McDonald’s conduct somehow equates to a defence of Tati’s conduct. Um, no, it doesn’t.

    • Dave

      Perhaps I should have included a winky smiley face for you Andrew to denote mild rib poking, but I had kinda figured a man of your fierce intellect couldn’t fail to have noticed that;)

      Now, without meaning to spiral into condescension, and working very much on the assumption that if it looks like a duck, waddles like a duck and quacks like a duck then the chances are its probably a duck (A little like the whole ‘apology to a daughter’ saga). Essentially, if the BFI are connected to Django Films, be it financially or any other way, and you work, or have any affiliation in your occupation to any organization that works closely with the BFI, then it isn’t particularly difficult to draw a line between the dots that leads directly to where your vested interests lie;)

      Now I know we’re not all gifted writer’s, blessed of IQ’s that soar high upon the thermals way above the average room temperature dunce, but it would be a little disingenuous to suggest that there isn’t a connection between you’re back-pocket position, and the highly peculiar/antagonistic stance Sylvain Chomet has chosen to take with regards to Helga, as discussed elsewhere in this thread;)

  • andrew osmond

    And I’m STILL waiting for someone to quote a _source_ (e.g. a reputable print publication or website) for the ‘revelation’ that the BFI is financially connected to Django Films. Well? I hope you’re not expecting the good readers of Cartoon Brew to take the say-so of one chap posting under the name of Swee’Pea, cute through his monicker is.

    If someone can provide a source… Well, it proves I’ve received the BFI’s Secret A113 directive to Say Rude Things About Richard McDonald And His Heroic Supporters On the Internet. I should really get another job. If only I’d had the sense to stay bravely anonymous, like all you pesky kids.

    Source please!

    • KC

      “Ed Vaizy, the Minister for Culture, announces his department’s plans for where public funding for the UK film will sit in light of the Government’s decision back in July to abolish the UK Film Council.

      The Government had decided to make the British Film Institute(BFI) the Lottery distributor for film in the UK, while inward investment work will transfer to Film London in a public/private industry partnership.”

      http://www.ukfilmcouncil.org.uk/

      Lottery funding supports innovative ways of attracting new audiences for films

      “The Illusionist – Sylvain Chomet directs this hand-drawn animated feature based on an unproduced script written by French comic Jacques Tati in 1956. Pathé Productions received £65,000 to take the film into 40 cinemas and for extra promotional activity”.

      http://www.ukfilmcouncil.org.uk/article/17201/Lottery-funding-supports-innovative-ways-of-attracting-new-audiences-for-films

      The way UK National Lottery funding for institutions, be it the arts, sports, science, community etc is granted is largely dependent of their worth and how successful they have been in the previous 12 months. The amount of National Lottery funding that the BFI will receive for next year is wholly dependent on the success/failure of the British Film Industry during the previous year. The BFI needs to be able to quantify to the National Lottery Board the successful use of the previous years funding or face the prospect of fund cutting. Therefore the BFI and its employees has a vested interest in any success that Chomet’s Lottery assisted The Illusionist might achieve as justification for further funding.

      The BFI also do good business with £20/$30 Jacques Tati dvd’s the sale of which will be boosted by the by the BFI’s promotion of Chomets adaptation of Tati’s Illusionist script. Not a penny of which I can imagine goes to Tati’s family or the people who actually made them.

      http://filmstore.bfi.org.uk/acatalog/BFI_Filmstore_France_44.html

      • andrew osmond

        The quote at the beginning of KC’s post (re the BFI becoming the lottery distributor in the UK) comes from an announcement dated 29 November 2010. Sadly, The Illusionist had finished its run in British cinemas by then, barring the second-run Prince Charles cinema in London’s Leicester Square.

        But, drat, I forgot that the BFI distributes Tati’s films on DVD. So the BFI has an indirect vested interest in The Illusionist doing well; so I must be an evil plant being paid to be rude about Richard McDonald on animation websites. And I would have got away it with it, if, er, I hadn’t used my real name.

        So that’s all settled! I’ll scoot back to Doctor Evil’s lair while solid, trustworthy crusaders like, er, Dave, side show bob and Swee’Pea toast another victory over the forces of darkness. Huzzah!

      • Dave

        Ahh…The old sixth form debating technique – if you can’t win an argument (and you’re losing Andrew;), then rubbish its context;)

    • The Brewmasters

      Agreed. Source the comment that Django is substantially backed by the BFI. The above connection you listed doesn’t imply that Django was funded by the BFI in any way; only that a film the company produced was supported by the BFI after completion.

      To insinuate that a respected critic like Andrew Osmond is in bed with the BFI is disrespectful. Back up your accusations with facts.

      • KC

        Reading back through the posts nobody has made a comment that “Django films was substantially backed by the BFI” other than Andrew Osmond himself.

        What has been pointed out is the fact that various employees of the BFI/Sight and Sound magazine have connections or a vested interest in the success of Chomet Lottery granted Illusionist movie as it will be one of the measurements used by the National Lottery Board when allocating future funds.

        Swee’Pea commented that “The BFI helped Chomet set up his failed Edinburgh studio”, they is no mention of money in the comment only that help was obtained from the BFI when Django was being setup which fits with BFI/Sight and Sound employee, “Film-maker and critic Mark ­Cousins, who helped Chomet set up his Edinburgh studio”

  • KC

    Another BFI/Sight and Sound employee connected with Django Films.

    “Film-maker and critic Mark ­Cousins, who helped Chomet set up his Edinburgh studio”

    http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/home-news/a-hot-ticket-set-to-transform-the-world-s-view-of-scotland-1.1000878

    • The Brewmasters

      KC – Again, source the comment that Django is substantially backed by the BFI. Stop trolling our site by making loose and trivial connections between the two enterprises.

      • Dave

        Clarification sought.

        At which point has anybody said, and I quote: ”Django is substantially backed by the BFI”?

        KC has clearly made the association apparent beyond reasonable doubt, and for myself, I certainly have not made the assertion anywhere that Django Films is SUBSTANTIALLY backed by the BFI. I have merely alluded to a potential financial link, be it substantial or otherwise, and therefore a highly tangible reason as to why Andrew may be protecting his interests.

        May I also point out that the first mention of vested interests came from Andrew himself.

      • The Brewmasters

        This is a talkback for opinions about the film, not a place for personal discussions. Any further off-topic comments will be deleted.

  • Ohaaaa aaarrr

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  • Ohaaaa aaarrr

    It was a slip of the keys, but my original comment was straight from the heart

  • Mister Twister

    Saw it on the first day of screening, aka Christmas Day.

    11:00, the first screening in US ever.

    It was awesome!~!

    *so proud*

  • interested observer

    respected film critic jonathan rosenbaum cites his reasons for not wishing to be drawn into the chomet/illusionist controversy, and crucially even the film itself…

    http://www.jonathanrosenbaum.com/?p=24181

  • http://www.millerandmullet.com Allan Turner

    Saw it last night. I thought it was an astonishing masterpiece. I was captivated beginning to end. The animation was staggering–the exaggerated characterizations served to make the personalities all the more human. As for the slow pacing, sure it was, but perfectly so. It reminded me of live action movies by Jim Jarmusch and Sofia Coppola. And like those movies, it was as slow as it needed to be. No complaints.

  • partial observer

    The Illusionist:

    “This is the only film I can recall that I wish didn’t exist…”

    …writes Richard Stracke of The Chicago Examiner.

    I wonder if that will make the box credits;)

    https://www.examiner.com/drama-film-in-chicago/the-illusionist-2010-review

  • Marco

    I absolutely, positively LOVED this movie. Between this and Toy Story 3… just damn. Two of my Top 10s for the year are in animation for the first time in a while.

  • Esn

    I heavily suspect that the ratings of some of the comments above have been artificially boosted by people voting themselves up with sockpuppet accounts.

    That’s just sad.

    The WAY in which these people attacking the film push their side of the story and attempt to assassinate the characters of anyone who doubts ANY PART of what they say only disgraces their own arguments, which looked at neutrally may well be substantially valid.

    —-

    As for the film: it’s very low-key, but rather good for all that. The middle section is not as strong as the beginning or end, which can also be said for Chomet’s previous film.