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The newest sensation by the same people that brought you "Triplets to Belleville"
Quite possibly the most touching animated film ever made, and arguably the most under rated. "The Illusionist" didn't have the same over blown hype the other animated films got like "Shrek Forever After", "How to Train Your Dragon" and "Tangled." However, it had something those other films lacked...heart. Unlike those other mentioned films that settled on cheap gimmicks and poor uninspired story telling, in a petty attempt to draw a buck, "The Illusionist" just focuses on telling the audience an engagingly deep story about the human spirit and how relationships can often affect our lives.
The story is centered around a French Illusionist (Jeane-Claude Donda), who finds himself out of work, so he travels to Scotland in an effort to find a gig. When he arrives, he meets a charming innocent young woman, Alice (Eilidh Rankin), whom he becomes close friends with, and decides to take her with him on the road. Their ensuing adventure changes both their lives forever.
For those that might have seen "Triplets to Belleville", then you should know that most of "The Illusionist" contains very little to no dialogue. Allowing for the characters' body language, colorful animation, and broad emotional display to tell the story. However, that's not to say that the story is in anyway less deep than any other animated feature out there; far from it. The average viewer may not like this film, due to it's unique style of animation that only appeals to those that enjoy the artistic side of movies. However, for those that do appreciate the art behind film making itself, then you'll come to love "The Illusionist" every bit as I have.
Not only is the animation remarkably unique in it's own simplicity, it also portrays a colorful world while incorporating elements of realism; with such lush details that would rival any of Hayao Miyazaki's films. Although "The Illusionist" wasn't shot in 3-D like those other animated films mentioned, the art style itself is far more impressive.
However, what impressed me the most about this movie was the amazingly deep story through it's subtle simplicity. As I mentioned earlier, the movie focuses on a elderly illusionist, whom has been reduced to using his magic tricks for cheap parlor shows. Performing his acts in front of a small crowd consisting of two elderly women, around the beginning of the film, after the opening rock band left with most of the theater audience. Needless to say, our protagonist's career as a magician was declining rapidly; with no one special in his life except for his feisty pet rabbit that seems too obnoxious to cooperate in any of the tricks. However, as luck would have it, he eventually meets a poor young girl that becomes one of his fans, and they quickly formed a bond that both sorely lacked in their lives.
This later prompts him to try to impress her with an array of gifts, as she agrees to travel on the road with him. Doing all the little things to take care of him like cooking, cleaning and such. One could say that they were almost like a married couple at that point; without the display of any intimacy outside a quick peck on the cheek. Sure, from the girl's cheerful admiration to his generosity, he probably could've had more of a intimate relationship with her if that's what he desired. However, he chose the more gentlemanly approach and slept on the couch; while she took the bed.
At first, they struggled quite a bit traveling from place to place. The illusionist finds himself forced to take on numerous of odd jobs to support them, as he 's finally forced to give up his integrity to become nothing more than a window magician for a clothing store, as a cheap marketing gimmick. Unfortunately, due to his heavy work schedule to support them, the illusionist is forced to neglect Alice's affections.
What happens from here isn't for the faint of heart, as the remainder of our story involves the sacrifices many of us make in life. Displaying symbolically in life, how we're forced to sacrifice our ideals to get by in society, as well as cut ties with those we care about over time. Often sacrificing even our own dreams, but at what cost? Is it worth it? Or, perhaps there's something more to the story than this. Maybe when we find ourselves compromising our own ideals in life, then perhaps that's a sign that we need to learn to move on in life. That sometimes the simple matter of giving up one's ideals is never healthy for anyone; regardless if your just doing it to get by.
As I said before, "The Illusionist" isn't for everyone. Although, the story is amazingly deep and complex within it's own simplicity that only those that appreciate the fine art behind cinema will come to enjoy it. Sadly, that's also part of the problem, as most audiences don't generally take animated films that seriously, nor do they always look for the symbolic meanings behind them. Hence, I feel that the powerful underlining themes of the film itself may become lost on a lot of people. Overall, I would have to give this film a three and a half out of four. Sure, the story is deep enough, along with the well executed artistic animation, but I doubt seriously it'll be as popular among casual movie goers. Which is a crying shame, as "The Illusionist" truly is a very thought provoking story.