Saw this movie last night. Loved it. Minimal dialogue – just time with characters, observing how weird and silly we humans tend to be. And then the slowly encroaching heartbreak.
Good old fashioned hand-drawn animation (with some objects computer-generated but they were gracefully melded into the world). And I do mean animation – scenes have constantly moving people and things that feel alive.
The Illusionist is directed by Sylvain Chomet (The Triplets of Belleville) from the previously un-produced script by the late great filmmaker Jacques Tati (Playtime). The script was apparently intended as a personal letter to his estranged daughter. The main character Tatischeff was designed to look like Tati and his character Monsieur Hulot, who appeared in most of Tati’s films. In fact, eagle-eyed watchers will catch a sort of meeting of the animated Tatischeff and live-action Hulot from Mon Oncle in one of the funnier sequences.
As an aside, Chomet has written and published comics. His Laid, Pauvre et Malade (Ugly, Poor and Sick), illustrated by Nicolas De Crécy (whose style greatly influenced The Triplets of Belleville), was recognized at the Angoulême International Comics Festival in 1997, although to my knowledge it has never been translated and imported to the States. (Hint-hint, NBM or Fantagraphics or some other publisher known for importing European comics.)