Not to be confused with the 2006 film of the same name, The Illusionist (French: L'Illusionniste) is a 2010 animated film directed by Sylvain Chomet, the creator of The Triplets of Belleville, based on an unproduced screenplay written by Jacques Tati in 1956.
A mostly silent film, set in the 1950s, about a French illusionist, named Tatischeff, as he tries to find work in a world where the stage is slowly giving way to the silver screen. His travels take him from Paris to London, and eventually a small rural town in Scotland, where he meets a young woman named Alice. Captivated by Tatischeff's illusions and believing them to be real, she leaves home with him as he makes his way to Edinburgh.
Tatischeff performs at a local music hall to an ever-decreasing audience, while Alice wanders around the city, seeing clothes that she wishes she could have. In his kindness, Tatischeff indulges her with these gifts. Unfortunately, he spends large amounts of money on them, while Alice continues to believe them to be more of his magic tricks. In order to continue in appeasing his protégé, Tatischeff takes up numerous other jobs to keep both Alice happy and a roof above their heads: being poorly treated and degraded in the process. After blossoming into a pretty young woman, Alice finds love with a local man working at a library across from their hotel.
The movie was meant to be Jacques Tati's love letter to his daughter in 1956. Tati's middle grandson, Richard MacDonald, sent a letter to famed movie critic Roger Ebert in which he [MacDonald] discusses his distaste for the film. You can read the letter here.
- 2D Visuals, 3D Effects: The flying camera pan across Edinburgh in the otherwise 2D animation. The vehicles are also made with CGI.
- The Alcoholic: With an Alcohol Hic and all.
- Bittersweet Ending: Alice matures and gets a boyfriend. Tatischeff, however, hangs up his top hat and white rabbit for good, and departs. And Alice realises how naïve she's been in thinking that Tatischeff could perform real magic. Not to mention the guilt of knowing that all of the expensive gifts didn't actually come from thin air.
- Black Comedy: The suicidal clown.
- Brawn Hilda: The opera singer at the wedding.
- Break the Cutie: Twice over it seems. Alice has her moment when Tatischeff writes her a note telling her magic isn't real when she'd spent her whole life dreaming away and Tatischeff himself when he has to admit it's time to give up.
- Camp Gay: The Beatles-like band whose song is sweeping Europe and driving the Illusionist and acts of his sort out of work.
- Crapsack World: Slap in the face realism and that the absolutely broke Tatischeff gets his money stolen is quite sad.
- Deranged Animation: With the other performers at the hotel in Edinburgh. But even they're tame considering Chomet's other work.
- Driven to Suicide: This almost happens with the clown until Alice knocks on his door, offering lunch.
- Eat the Dog: Tatischeff thinks Alice has cooked his rabbit.
- End of an Age: A major theme throughout the film. Tati's profession is being outpaced by electricity, moving pictures and Rock n' Roll.
- Everything Is Big in Texas: A flashy Texan brings his car into the garage (which even has Texas license plates, despite being in the United Kingdom).
- Eyes Always Shut: A number of supporting and background characters have their eyes closed throughout the whole film.
- The '50s: The animators have Shown Their Work on the period.
- Ghibli Hills: The countryside around Edinburgh.
- Specifically Holyrood Park, which is still more or less exactly as it is portrayed here.
- Gray Rain of Depression: Close to the end when Alice reflects over her dreams of magic being false and the fact Tatischeff went along with it for her sake. Includes a stare out of the window at the rain moment as well.
- Hair-Raising Hare: The stage rabbit is not friendly at all.
- I Ate WHAT?!: Averted but played with. The rabbit escapes his/her hutch and Alice is cooking a stew for lunch. The wind blows the pages off the cookery book and it opens on a page for rabbit stew. Hilarity Ensues.
- Just Train Wrong: Mostly the film does as good a job with trains as on the rest of the fifties British setting, but there are some extremely French-looking railway carriages briefly visible in the background at Kings Cross station.
- Killer Rabbit: He/She bites.
- Le Film Artistique: Especially at that "depressing as hell" point.
- Lonely Piano Piece: Much of the soundtrack, used to great effect.
- Magicians Are Wizards: Alice thinks this, at least.
- Man in a Kilt: The film is mostly set in Scotland, so no surprise. The drunk Scotsman gets the Fan Disservice version when the wind blows his kilt a little too high.
- Medium Blending: TV and movies seen in the film are live action, not animated.
- Mime and Music-Only Cartoon: Much like The Triplets of Belleville.
- Mood Whiplash: The aforementioned Eat the Dog scene — it cuts from the illusionist hunting for the rabbit to the Sad Clown attempting suicide and back again.
- Odd Friendship: French illusionist and a young Scottish girl.
- Parental Substitute: The illusionist becomes this for Alice. We never see what happened to her parents.
- Pull a Rabbit out of My Hat: Part of the act.
- Pretty in Mink: Alice has a coat with a white fur collar.
- Running Gag: The Scotsman who gives Tatischeff his first job in Scotland is seen multiple times being completely drunk.
- Sad Clown: The clown living upstairs drinks heavily to circus music.
- Scenery Porn: And how◊.
- Shout-Out: The hit band Billy Boy and the Britoons look like some lads from Oop North.
- A certain mouse-faced mechanic makes a re-appearance at Jenner's Department Store.
- There is a pawnbroker's shop called "Brown & Blair". Those are the two recent prime ministers in the United Kingdom. The shop is even modeled after a real pawnshop in Edinburgh.
- Silence Is Golden: A majority of the film is silent, save for a few moments of light dialogue and incomprehensible mumbling.
- Squee!: The raging fangirls at the rock concert.
- The Stinger: The Drunken Scotsman crawling across the floor in London after the credits.
- Tag Along Kid: Alice. Her optimism and cheerful personality help the Illusionist and his fellow entertainers through their struggles against an increasingly commercialized society.
- The Voiceless: To some extent, Tatischeff. He coughs a bit.