Making the Grades
The world seems to have lost its magic for a French illusionist (voice by Jean-Claude Donda). Modern audiences are more interested in a rock-n-roll musical group that has the girls in the audience swooning. Working in second-rate theaters and picking up jobs wherever he can, he moves from place to place. Finally packing up his props, including a bad tempered bunny, he takes the train and boat to a remote Scottish village where he has been invited to perform in a pub by a rarely sober Scot’s man.
While working there he meets Alice (voice by Eilidh Rankin), a young cleaning girl who believes his act is real, especially when he magically produces a new pair of red shoes for her. When his gig is finally up, the aging vaudeville performer once again hits the road only to discover that Alice has stowed away and needs him to generate a ticket for her.
Once in their new location, she keeps house while he goes to work. But the smartly dressed young women in the city soon have Alice yearning for the beautiful clothes they wear. And she seems to think all it takes is a wave of a wand to make them appear.
This French animation (not to be confused with the 2006 film that stars Edward Norton as another illusionist) has very little dialogue. Based on the writing of Jacque Tati, the script unfolds through delightful drawings that pay careful attention to even the smallest details. Nominated for the Golden Globe Best Animated Feature, the movie wanders languidly from scene to scene as the Illusionist and Alice experience life together. (At one point, he fears she has cooked his rabbit. In another, Alice’s intervention keeps a despondent entertainer from hanging himself.)
For audiences familiar with productions like Toy Story and Tangled, the pacing and lack of conversation make this plot difficult to follow at times. Yet for those willing to let the pictures and music tell the story, The Illusionist is a charming entertainment option.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about The Illusionist (2010).
How does Alice’s belief in the illusionist change the way he feels about his occupation? How do entertainment trends change over time? What is popular now?
What are the challenges of telling a story without dialogue? How do foreign films differ from movies produced in North America?