"The Illusionist" "Hall Pass"

"The Illusionist" An animated film by Sylvain Chomet, based on an a 1956 unproduced film-script by the late Jaques Tati.

The sweet, poignant film, “The Illusionist,” is still in theatres across the country because it’s been tapped for an Academy Award this Sunday, the 27th, for Best Animated Feature. Unless it wins, which I doubt it will, it’s gone.  So see it now!

“The Illusionist” is up against a total of fifteen animated films including: “Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore.” “Despicable Me,” “How to Train Your Dragon,” “Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole,” “Megamind,” “Shrek Forever After,” “Tangled,” and “Toy Story 3.”
The film, created by the same people (Sylvain Chomet) who made “The Triplets of Belleville” a few years back, was taken from a 1956 unproduced film-script by the late Jaques Tati, who died in 1982. Tati wrote, directed, and starred in such French classics as “Mon Oncle,” “Mr. Hulot’s Holiday” and others. “Playtime” and “Traffic” were his last films. There’s a clever scene in “The Illusionist,” where the magician goes into a movie theatre and a clip from Tati’s “Mon Oncle” is on the screen. Nice tribute.

“The Illusionist” is painterly and poetic; almost a silent film (as were Tati’s) - - little spurts of dialogue in several languages. It is the story of an elderly, fading French magician (the artist rendering and animation are perfect likenesses of Jaques Tati), traveling by train and cart from one small village in the British Isles to another for bookings in shabby theatres. He meets a young, petite, servant girl in an inn who latches on to him. She uses her wiles to soft-soap him into buying her the latest fashions. There’s no hanky-panky. They end up in Edinburg where he wastes his talents selling products in a store window.

Some of the delights in the film are the others who share one of his bills: A fey, self-indulgent rock group and a gothic, skeletal, chanteuse. These are crowd favorites and bring in the money. The others (including the magician) don’t fare so well and are let go.  They include a troupe of acrobats who shout “Hup-hup!” with every action, even off-stage, and a sad, creepy ventriloquist who lets his equally, if-not-more-creepy, look-aike, dummy speak for him.  They depict the shabby side of a dying art. The animators exaggerate the characters’ physicality to the extreme; accentuating the stereotype.

Eventually, the girl finds her own way; the magician leaves a sad note behind: “Magicians do not exist.”

Chomet uses muted tones, not the bright, primary, in-your-face, colors like in Pixar or Disney animation films; the land- and cityscapes have the appearance of dreamy watercolors.  (Go to IMDB.com to see clips.)

If it doesn’t win an Oscar, I hope it sticks around awhile. Guess you can get it on DVD or order it on-line.

"Hall Pass"  A Farrelly Bros. Film, starring Jason Sudeikis, Owen Wilson, Jenna Fischer, and Christina Applegate.

I pass.