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No matter what the world thinks of magic, it is a dying art. The bizarre clothes, the plump rabbits peeking out of top hats, the pretty assistants smiling as they go under the blade to get themselves cut into half; all these are parts of an extinct world. Movies are often made about these fading cultures and they always turn out to be melancholic, and The Illusionist seems no different when you hear the plot for the first time. It is not the Edward Norton movie from 2006; it's the French adaptation of the comic master Jacques Tati's screenplay.

The Illusionist (French: L'Illusionniste) is set in 1959, where the protagonist, a middle-aged vagabond magician performs his somewhat outdated tricks to a set of reluctant audience. Between his searches for jobs from one theatre to another, he gets the call to perform in a small village out in Scotland, which he enthusiastically takes. During his stint in Scotland, he meets a young urchin girl, who is still naive enough to believe that magic is real. As the magician leaves for Edinburgh, the girl follows him and he takes the role of a stand-in parent. He lets her stay with him and buys her whatever small luxury he can afford with his unpredictable income. Somewhere along the line between paying bills and imploring for jobs, the magic runs out of him, but not for the girl, and then the illusion begins.

The Illusionist is roughly like a silent movie; people don't really talk, there's music all the time and the characters speak in a jumble of languages that we can barely understand. The movie has brilliant graphics - every single scene is a piece of art, from the grey yet cheerful Scottish scenes to the whimsical hotel in Edinburgh - the world of The Illusionist is unlike anything we are used to seeing. The movie could've been depressing, but director Sylvain Chomet did his magic and it turned out to be an enchanting work, with great music and a bittersweet story.

RS verdict: 8/10


 


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