illusionist_1

Creating a ‘traditionally animated’ feature, which is to say a film created by drawing 2D images rather than tweaking 3D models, either physically or virtually, is most definitely a very time consuming exercise (I take issue with the term ‘traditionally animated’ as I’m not sure what’s untraditional about the art of stop-motion). Unsurprising, then, that the last time I saw a new image from Sylvain Chomet’s The Illusionist was literally years ago. Finally, a batch of gorgeous new images have surfaced, and you can see them all below the break.

Chomet, if you don’t know the name, was the director of The Triplets of Belleville, aka Belleville Rendezvous, a French toon that made something of a splash back in 2003, not least by garnering effusive praise from some big cheeses at Pixar.

Here are the four pictures, as freshly released by Pathe.

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You might recognise the likeness of Jacques Tati in one of these characters. The film is based upon an unproduced script of Tati’s and according to the official synopsis this is the “story of a dying breed of stage entertainer whose thunder is being stolen by emerging rock stars. Forced to accept increasingly obscure assignments in fringe theaters, garden parties and bars, he meets a young fan who changes his life forever”.

It appears to be a period piece, which is not a surprise; sheep feature prominently, as do cars and other means of transportation; the animation favours a watercolour look which suggests nostalgia; the actual performing of illusions appears to be somewhere off screen so far, and I don’t know about you but I can’t see a drop of rock music anywhere. What a tease.

Chomet certainly seems to have a strong Anti-American streak, caricaturing US tourists in both Belleville and his Paris Je’taime live-action short as being snap-happy fatties in Mickey ears. Bashing Disney seems a bit rich when Disney were responsible for refining the craft on which he’s built his work, and definitely set the precedent for much of this stylistic choices.

He has also, so far, shown a complete lack of control in plotting and pacing. There’s no denying how charming his work is, how wonderfully drafted, imaginative and full of character but there’s not been much narrative discipline on display. Here’s hoping The Illusionist, with the help of Tati’s screenplay, pulls that particular rabbit out of the hat.

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