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An old-school ‘Illusionist’

French animator Sylvain Chomet, the brain behind the quirky, nearly dialogue-free “The Triplets of Belleville,” is up to his old tricks with “The Illusionist,” which was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Animated Film.

French animator Sylvain Chomet, the brain behind the quirky, nearly dialogue-free “The Triplets of Belleville,” is up to his old tricks with “The Illusionist,” which was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Animated Film. Based on an unproduced screenplay by late French filmmaker Jacques Tati, the film follows an aging music hall magician as he deals with the changing cultural scene of the late 1950s. Chomet sat down to talk with Metro about Tati, the problems with computer animation and falling in love with Edinburgh.

Do you know why Tati never made this film himself?


I heard one of the reasons he didn’t want to play the role is because he didn’t want to be seen with gray hair. Even in other films when he was quite old, he still had his hair dyed. He was very conscious about looking good. This film would’ve been quite cheap to do in live action. It’s not really any big challenge. It wasn’t very cheap to do in animation.


You’re still committed to hand-drawn animation rather than Pixar’s computer-generated style. Why is that?


It’s very simple. If you take any kind of very old thing — take “The Jungle Book,” for example. That still stands. You can show that to children and it’s very beautiful. But take the first “Toy Story.” It’s already very difficult to watch because the technology has changed so much. You look at that and it looks badly done.


Most of ‘The Illusionist’ takes place in Edinburgh, which wasn’t in the original script. Why the change?


I first went to Edinburgh when there was a premiere of my film at the festival there, and I took the train from Paris because I don’t fly. I thought it was the most beautiful city I’d ever seen. I just went home to France and said to my wife, “It’s a great place. We should go there.” She’s English, and she said, “Oh, I’m going to get beaten up there.” But it was fine. It was very, very welcoming.

 
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