Review: 'The Illusionist' conjures up animated whimsy, heartbreak

I did not grow up with the films of Jacques Tati.I did, however, grow up with a healthy appreciation of silent comedy.  I saw my first Chaplin and Keaton films when I was very young, and as long as I've been a film fan, I've had images of Harold Lloyd and Laurel and Hardy in my head.  I fell in love with French films in general through Truffaut, my particular Gallic gateway drug.  Even so, Tati was not part of my vocabulary.When I started working at Dave's Video, a laserdisc-only store in the San Fernando Valley, it was the early 90s, and it was Criterion who introduced me to Tati's work.  "Jour de fete," "Mr. Hulot's Holiday," "Mon Oncle," "Play Time," and "Trafic" were a revelation, the work of a filmmaker who has obviously absorbed the lessons of the silent era of comedy only to bring a new voice to that style.  His films weren't, strictly speaking, silent, but he was a purely visual storyteller.  His Mr. Hulot character is as indelible a creation as Chaplin's Little Tramp, and the real testament to how strong Tati's work is may be the influence he had with only nine films to his name.Even today, Tati is not a name I hear referenced often in American film, and I'm not sure what level of awareness there is of these great lovely films he made with younger film viewers, if any.  Right now, you can see "Play Time" on Netflix Watch Instantly, so if you want to get a taste of what his work was like, that's a good place to start.  It would be a great way to warm up for a viewing of the new film, "The Illusionist," but not essential.

http://www.hitfix.com/blogs/motion-captured/posts/review-the-illusionist-conjures-up-animated-whimsy-heartbreak

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