“The Illusionist” by Sylvain Chaumet is a bit of a disappointment.The French-born screenwriter and graphic artist gave us “The Triplets of Belleville” in 2003 (nominated for Oscars and Cesars). Remember the namesake tune and the frenetic storytelling around those three sisters in a Paris that everybody knows but no one has seen? Seven years later, anticipation was at an all-time high for us Parisian moviegoers hoping to find an encore of originality and potent storytelling.
But none is to be found in “The Illusionist,” which came out on DVD this month. A down-and-out magician (modeled after Jacques Tati, since the story itself was adapted from a never-before published screenplay penned by the French filmmaker) leaves Paris for Scotland after rock’n’roll takes over music-hall stages, driving a stick in the heart of Count de Vaudeville. He never quite finds success again but instead runs into browbeaten colleagues and makes friends with a young woman he meets at an inn (our guy does manage to keep his wits about him and a certain detached optimism). There’s no real dialogue to speak of although “The Illusionist” should have a lot to spare in the visual department. Note: should.
A narrative that’s painfully lacking takes all the oomph out of Chaumet’s graphic style and the thousand-and-ones shenanigans, visual sniggers and guffaws that “Triplets” came packed tightly with here collapse like an angel food cake gone awry.