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.