film response: The Illusionist

Human gestures, tiny comic tragedies and winsome sight-gags flicker across the gorgeous, detailed backgrounds of this mostly hand-drawn animated film like a dancing candle’s flame threatened by the anxious breeze of an open window — transient and heart-aching.

This film’s non-subtitled, multi-lingual dialogue probably wouldn’t fill a decent-sized paragraph of an average magazine article and yet the principal characterizations — from an original script by Jacques Tati, someone whose work insists that words don’t matter all that much — are rich, detailed and memorable. And it’s such a relief not to have to wince at too much exposition or stupid diction or to feel the condescension of a director who is too afraid to let his images speak.

There’s no such thing as magicians? Maybe not, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t still some magic left to feel.


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