Sylvain Chomet’s The Illusionist

Posted By yonghow on March 22nd, 2011

It took a very prompt 1-2 minutes into the screening for me to make up my mind that I was going to love Sylvain Chomet’s The Illusionist (L’illusionniste), and that I was on to something precious and rare.

In a market hugely dominated by 3D animated films ( I myself having worked on Rango just recently ), it is heartening indeed to see that there are still auteurs out there willing to risk (potentially more than) a limb to create soulful, unique pieces of art form, and not just products whose sole purpose is for profit. If you’re an artist/animator that worked on this delightful film, I pay my utmost respect -you guys/gals should be very proud.

These days few countries outside of Japan produce high quality traditional 2D animated films, which makes The Illusionist even more of a rarity because the visual and animation style is very different from that of anime. I also enjoyed the director’s previous outing The Triplets of Belleville, but that was more whimsical and had considerably less emotional impact for me. Personally, I also prefer The Illusionist’s more realistic style of animation.

On a side note :

I watched the film with some colleagues on a Sunday evening, and there couldn’t have been more than 15-20 persons in the cinema. ( us included ) Had I caught the film when I was still back in Tokyo, this would have be an impossible sight, for there is enormous support and appreciation for the creative arts. ( indeed, this film is distributed by Ghibli in Japan, the gold standard for animated features. )

Especially telling would be the demographic of the turnout for such events in Japan, ranging from teenagers to old folks, reflecting the sophisticated and widespread taste that an average Japanese have for the arts.

Here in Singapore, animation is almost always treated as something meant just for kids, an euphemism for a lesser art form, if you may. I once had a casual friend profess to me, with a hint of pride, that he will never consider spending an equal amount of money on a movie ticket if it was an animated film. I exercised considerable restrain to stop myself from slapping him in the face.

The 2 disc blu-ray/dvd set is now available for pre-order on Amazon, and I am looking forward to enjoying this gem of an animation again soon.


15 Responses to “Sylvain Chomet’s The Illusionist”


good review ,movies in this quality are rare gems…thumbs up for this…


I think France is similar to Japan in that there is a genuine appreciation of the arts. If you look at the stuff coming out of Gobelins, pretty much all of it are done in 2D and usually in very innovative ways.


My favorite phrase: “I exercised considerable restrain to stop myself from slapping him in the face.”


Words simply cannot describe the high art masterwork that is THE ILLUSIONIST. & hand-rendered is always better than CG. The phenomenal score needs to be mentioned as well…


Wow, I didn’t think you would have heard of this movie, let alone seen it! It’s actually really popular here in Québec because of its French origins. When I saw its review in the local paper, I was ecstatic at the prospect of seeing an all new hand-drawn animated film after such a long time. The animation is fantastic, but my favorite element is the environments and their water colour aesthetics. The entire art direction just came alive thanks to the stunning, and at times nostalgic, European setting.

“and not just products whose sole purpose is for profit.”

That’s exactly how I feel. Nowadays, it seems like Pixar is the only studio who actually puts effort into their productions. Sure, occasionally we see magnificent creations like Rango, who’s visual/artistic qualities put just about every other studio to shame, but those kinds of films are few and far between. If more studios put in as much passion and care into their as works such as Toy Story 3, Rango and certain independent animators, I would appreciate the CGi aesthetic a lot more.

On a side note, have you seen the Secret of Kells? It’s hand-renedered, but has a very unique style unlike anything else. You rally have to see it!


Gosh, It is finally here on screen. When I first heard about a Tati Film being made by Chomet, it was in my list of must watch. The first trailer was intensely moving.

Thanks for the heads up, Tickets booked for tonight, I don’t think it will stay on screen too long 🙁


My American friends have been raving about this but I haven’t been able to locate a screening or a copy here in Indonesia.

To be honest, the problem of that sentiment your friend has is a lot more widespread than Singapore. Even more distressing for me is these people would also sooner give the chance to a mediocre 3D CG feature than to a well-animated 2D.

All the arguments in the world get negated by the answer of “Everyone has got different tastes!” as they walk into yet another showing of Sparkling Vampire or Mission Impropable 10 or Tiger King 5: Money Sequel.

It’s great to see this film get the attention and it spreading… I’ll be sure to add it to my look-out for list.



I’ve watched this film, I’m proud with this animation, because it shows reality,”magic is not exists”


Seeing everyone’s comments and praises for this film is heartening indeed, and I really hope it gets to screen in as many theaters as possible and get the recognition it deserves.

A-run Chey

I just caught this film today, during its last weekend run in my city. I was actually very surprised that only one theater in Toronto was screening the movie.

As for the film itself, I was left speechless. It truly is one of the most charming and inspirational movies I have ever watched. I know that is a pretty bold statement, but what the French director was able to accomplish with this film is quite remarkable. I could not believe how much emotion and feeling was conveyed throughout the movie, without the use of standard dialogue. The animation overall was simply superb, and I enjoyed how a lot of the backgrounds were kept very minimalistic and simple in design.

Thank you Younghow for posting this on your blog, since I had not heard of this film until I read your write up. Cheers!


I loved the The Triplets of Belleville. I didnt know he made a new animated film! I am looking forward ot see it!
Nice website by the way! Keep up the good work. And….I appreciate any kind of good art! 🙂
Greetings from greece through germany


Apart from this kind of film, France thinks a bit like Singapore : “just for kids” like you say.
When you look at the tv, all cartoons are for toddlers, children… Except perhaps Wakfu who are for young teens. French animation does not really like Japanese animation.

The script is by Jacques Tati. Inedit script never filmed. He himself played his famous character Mister Hulot in his movies. It’s funny too see that the character of the Illusionist looks like him a bit :

Sorry for my english, i’m french.


it reminds me of Hayao Miyazaki’s works

Norvin Dumalagan

nice there an animated version of it?


Watching its drawings and its trailer has help me awaken the child within me. It makes me feel like a child again. I love its relaxing background music, it makes me smile and relax while watching the trailer. Hope I can find a copy of this movie.