The Illusionist

Not rated yet!
Director
Sylvain Chomet
Runtime
1 h 17 min
Release Date
16 February 2010
Genres
Animation, Drama
Overview
A French illusionist travels to Scotland to work. He meets a young woman in a small village. Their ensuing adventure in Edinburgh changes both their lives forever.
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  • TIFF 10 Capsules — Day 4

    TIFF 10 Capsules — Day 4

    CIRKUS COLUMBIA (Danis Tanovic, Bosnia, 5)

    Tanovic returns home after a couple of unsuccessful Western-made films and returns to the vein of his reputation-making NO MAN’S LAND — a black comedy about the early 90s wars that broke up Yugoslavia. And an early scene gives us the sense that CIRKUS COLUMBIA, set in a small Bosnian village on the eve of the war, will also mark a return to form. A couple of newly-empowered ethnic-Croat city officials drop by a Serb woman’s home to evict her. Her Croat husband has just returned to the newly-noncommunist country after 20 years in West Germany with a hot trophy wife to make good on his claim to the home — to “put things right,” you understand. She curses out the cops at the door and dumps a pot of boiling water on them from a floor above. Then, while they hop around screaming, a tube of burn cream drops into the frame. Obviously, we’re gonna see the whole war played out within the microcosm of this family and/or village. The returning husband has never known the couple’s son, who is being “protected” by a local Yugoslav Army officer who is sweet on the mother but has no Deutschmarks to buy everything up. There’s a colorful cast of town eccentrics and couples. Oh … and the husband has a black tomcat that is like a talismanic symbol of his good luck in the West. Naturally, it goes missing and the whole town gets involved in the hunt (its reappearance is the film’s high point).

    There is a lot to like here and I wouldn’t exactly warn people off CIRKUS COLUMBIA. The problem is that the awesome cinema of neighboring Romania has really raised the bar in the last few years on this kind of story and on having the convictions of their mordant blackness. CIRKUS is really only intermittently funny, and then has the gall to get sentimental on us in the last reel, which I won’t spoil. Suffice to say that there are some pretty unbelievable character arc changes and the last image is unforgivably sweet. Let’s just say it’s of two people on an old ride at the titular circus — the exact same ending as one of the shorts from TALES FROM THE GOLDEN AGE. Only, the Romanian film knows how to weave a sick joke into the situation, while Tanovic just gives us the Peaches and Herb “and it feeeels so gooooood” sentiment, which is not undone by panning up to a few puffs of CGI smoke.


    THE CONSPIRATOR (Robert Redford, USA, 2) Even by standards of leftist “issue” films, this is risibly bad and so on-the-nose I had to laugh in spots. More tk at Big Hollywood.


    THE ILLUSIONIST (Sylvain Chomet, France/Britain, 4)

    Just a misconceived film, if not exactly an unpleasant or punishing one. As everyone et son frere knows, this film is based on an unfilmed Jacques Tati script, about an early-60s magician being elbowed out the industry by newer forms of entertainment. But I think it’s more than name-dropping to point this out, because it’s the key to why this film is, I think, unsuccessful. The protagonist is an obvious M. Hulot cousin and is even named Tatisheff (Tati’s real name). While touring England and later Scotland, he takes on a young girl as a “Cinderella” project and is so successful, she begins to attract another man.

    While Tati is very far from a favorite of mine — I think his comedy plays better theoretically and on the page (this is part of why, I think, he is a critics favorite) — even a fan should realize that pointing out that Hulot was a cartoon or Tati had cartoon elements in his films don’t mean that actually animating him is a good idea. Without Tati’s physical presence as an actor and the materiality of his world, the humor becomes even more theoretical.

    There are some funny bits here — the most dangerous rabbit since the Carter administration, the reason the magician rolls up his sleeve at one point, and an on-the-side joke you might miss about British cuisine, as the POV sits outside an Edinburgh “chippie” and you can read the menu. But there’s also a distasteful element of self-aggrandizement and/or self-pity in the story, portraying a Beatles clone group (the Britoons) as loud, talentless nancy-boys just makes Tati/Chomet come across as Grandpa in the corner of the room (or Charlie Chaplin in A KING IN NEW YORK) ranting against the dang-fool younger generation and their awful jazz. And ultimately I think Sylvain’s animation style — its grotesque elements, the lack of speech and a barely-realistic template — works against the kind of semi-tragic story of lost love that THE ILLUSIONIST ends up being. I liked Chomet’s TRIPLETS OF BELLEVILLE, so I felt down after this one and realized I hadn’t really seen a great film yet and started to think, “maybe it’s just me … I’m becoming a D’Angelesque impossible-to-please guy.” Until …


    TABLOID (Errol Morris, USA, 9)

    Finally, the festival gets started, with its first great film, on Sunday opening night at the new Lightbox theater. Indeed, given how blah a festival nearly everyone seemed to be having and how I was in the first audience for this one — I don’t even think there were press screenings, I definitely went into TABLOID cold of any “buzz” — I think (I hope, I pray) that schedulers deliberately back-loaded the festival until after the Lightbox opened.

    Anyhoo … onto this film — Morris’s best since THE THIN BLUE LINE in significant part because it returns to his roots of making films about eccentrics and weirdos that somehow manage to say something profound about them and everyone else in between all the “oh, come ON” moments (just don’t ever make another political movie, Errol, mmmmmkay ….) The Morris film TABLOID most closely resembles is MR. DEATH, both films being profiles of some Nutcase who is famous for Thing X, and then we learn midway through (actually, about 4/5 of the way through here) about his separate, never-previously-mentioned fame for Thing Y.

    But while Fred Leuchter went from just bizarre to wicked through an excess of epistemological and scientistic hubris, Morris maintains an appropriately breezier tone for Joyce McKinney’s story in TABLOID. In large part this is because she’s a much more appealing personality (albeit a rapist and a Nutcase; she could be a Tennessee Williams heroine) but also because Morris is interested in her media stardom. He takes an appropriately breathless, tabloidish tone and pace and visual style. Other than the familiar Interrotron look-into-the-camera interviews, the film mostly consists of collages of tabloid headlines or ironically recontextualized found footage of Mormon missionary films, 50s male-body contests, etc. When Thing Y comes along, it was a shocker to me (though I remembered it upon the film’s prompting).

    I went in knowing about McKinney’s Thing X, which was a sensational tabloid story in Britain in the late-70s. McKinney became convinced a Mormon friend she wanted sexually had been kidnapped and taken away from her for cult programming. He was on a mission in Britain, which is routine for Mormon men, McKinney’s ignorance of which fact proves her vacuousness. So Joyce goes to Britain, kidnaps him and forces him to have sex with her, thinking that would cure him of Mormon repression. She became a tabloid sex celebrity (think Monica Lewinsky) until she fled the country. Then Fleet Street began digging about her past and a new round of publicity began

    The one mistake Morris makes, I think, is giving too much voice (or any voice actually) to an ex-Mormon crusader who basically thinks McKinney’s victim was either asking for it or even if he wasn’t, he deserved it because Mormonism and premarital chastity are ridiculous repressions from which, in Rousseau’s memorable phrase, he should be “forced to be free.” But since that’s basically McKinney’s attitude too, it was unavoidable, and it will have the nice side benefit of seeing how feminists react to this film. When Morris asks the blunt question — “is it possible for a woman to rape a man,” she answers “no” and then tells the familiar joke about relaxing and enjoying it, like the weather a marshmallow and a parking meter. If the sexes were reversed, Morris (and McKinney) would be lynched at the next Take Back the Night rally for telling this story in this way.

    Then Thing Y comes along, within the last few years and which I won’t even mention, except to say it becomes a different kind of tabloid story, one Morris suggests fits better in a new era. And it suggests that McKinney’s persona was not fake, kidnap-rapist though she was. She really was just starved for love and sought it any way and anyhow she could find it. Actually, I lied at the start. This is Morris’s best film since GATES OF HEAVEN.


    NORWEGIAN WOOD (Tran Anh Hung, Japan, 4)

    So *this* is what people who thought ALL ABOUT LILY CHOU-CHOU or NOBODY KNOWS were too damn long were getting at??? Even if I didn’t know this film was adapted from a novel, it wouldn’t have been hard to figure out — the lengthy voiceover narration, the wealth of incident, and finally the excess of the latter, as if the adapter just had to “get it all in.” And that’s where NORWEGIAN WOOD falls.

    For about 90 minutes I was fine with just luxuriating in NORWEGIAN WOOD’s textures and surfaces. Tran has a way with making languor appetizing, shown in his VERTICAL RAY OF THE SUN and SCENT OF GREEN PAPAYA. In those films, tropical heat created an aimless hazy reverie mood (“Joe” was probably taking notes). Here it’s more the faces of the actors, caressed in light that looks like it was filtered through butter, giving the perfect faces the feel and texture of a creamy dessert you wanna taste on the screen. There’s also a fine setup — college-age boy and girl, Watanabe and Naoko (the latter an unrecognizable Rinko Kikuchi) meet after the suicide of a mutual friend who also was her first beau. And there’s a number of viruoso scenes. I especially liked the worst-thing-you-ever-said mistake Watanabe makes the first time they have sex, which sends her to a rehab-type clinic, away from him; the scene with Watanabe having dinner with his roommate and *his* girlfriend; and a lengthy track back and forth across a windswept Japanese grassy-reed field as Naoko talks about the suicide for the first time. And like with how the Vietnam war was echoing only-just offstage in PAPAYA, WOOD takes place during a Japanese student uprising that plays no role after establishing the time-frame early on, A 30-minute shorter cut of this film would probably be a strong 6 or a weak 7.

    But for about 45 or 50 minutes, I was just going to myself “will this thing ever fracking end????” and not for external reasons like bathroom or hunger. There was another girlfriend, and another, and a counselor at Naoko’s camp, and Watanabe moves out the dorm, and one of the girlfriend prospects moves into his new pad, and he tries to take up again with Naoko and I start shaking my watch … faster, FASTER!!! It seems too mundane a complaint, but NORWEGIAN WOOD is just too damn long and has too many characters and incidents. (And the Emperor thinks the opera has too many notes, I know, I know …)

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    1 Comment »

    1. “I think his comedy plays better theoretically and on the page (this is part of why, I think, he is a critics favorite)”

      I don’t get this at all. I understand not liking Tati, of course – several of my film-watching buddies don’t care much for him – but I don’t understand the claim that his humor is somehow better conceptually than it is when it’s actually brought to life.

      What I love about Tati is that his humor is so delightfully visual – what wouldn’t sound very impressive or funny “theoretically and on the page” works beautifully when brought to film. So many of the scenes in his films are uproariously funny to me not because it “seems” like they should be funny, but because his performance and his choreography and his visual and aural sense make them hilarious.

      For that matter, I’m not sure what the comment about critics is supposed to mean either (other than that some people seem to like to come up when reasons why that single-minded entity known as “critics” admire things that other people don’t, and why they aren’t looking at the “full picture” that general audiences see) – I’ve never noticed a trend of them liking films because they sound good “theoretically” or because they look good “on the page.” I imagine a lot of the critics who like him (because, of course, different critics are going to have different reasons for liking him, and some aren’t going to like him at all) like him because he’s so visually inventive and because his humor is so thoroughly “filmic” (that is, he uses the elements of films to his full advantage to create works that are singularly “cinematic.”)

      Comment by Thomas C. | September 10, 2011 | Reply


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  • Films seen last weekend (mostly mediocre)

    Films seen last weekend (mostly mediocre)

    THE ILLUSIONIST (Neil Burger, USA, 2006, 5)
    I actually went to this movie by mistake, thinking it was the latest movie by Christopher Nolan (of MEMENTO fame), a fall 2006 release about a turn-of-the-century magician whose tricks get too real for comfort. Once seated, I saw the trailer for the movie I was expecting to see. wtf? Oh, well. This movie’s actually pretty good — and it starts off really strong, with a kind of fairy-tale childhood flashback (I enjoyed the slight-but-unobtrusive gauze around the edge of the frame). Paul Giamatti and Ed Norton are good as expected, both convincing as two different men — Norton as the magician Weisenheimer both creates a man in love and a man obsessed, and Giamatti as the police inspector handles with aplomb his mix of emperor’s loyal servant and man fascinated by the “how” matters of a magic act. (The film thankfully never explains them.) But one or two points shaven off for an ending conceptually identical to the end of this movie (follow link only if you’ve seen ILLUSIONIST or want it spoiled). It goes by way too fast, particularly for something that recodes the whole movie, and, from what I could tell of it, it made no sense and defanged the emotions the film was tweaking anyway. Wow, movies are an illusion, a trick. Who knew?

    THE FLOWER OF MY SECRET (Pedro Almodovar, Spain, 1996, 6)
    LIVE FLESH (Pedro Almodovar, Spain, 1998, 5)
    Obviously, watching the Lumiere Brothers at the factory as a little boy and then going through film history chronologcially is impossible. But my reaction to these two movies are case studies on just how much watching films out of sequence colors our opinions of them. I saw FLOWER and FLESH back-to-back Sunday night at the AFI Retro, thus catching up with two of the three post-PEPI, LUCI, BOM … Pedro films I had missed. But I found these, seen out of order, as mildly-interesting rough drafts, with raw material and hints at a new direction that would reach full flower in the “mature style” of ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER and TALK TO HER (which I saw contemporanously in 1999 and 2002 and liked a lot). However, when Mike saw MOTHER back in ’99, he complained that it retread ideas from FLOWER. And his review of FLOWER in ’96 called it a welcome turn to a somewhat more serious style (for the record, he didn’t like FLESH much).

    As it is, FLOWER seems like Pedro is moving toward using his bright candy-colored palette to make women’s melodrama and away from the sort of chaotic-erotic Preston Sturges braided-plot farces he had been making. But he’s stuck between the two. The mother-daughter “fussing” between Almodovar vets Rossy DePalma and Chus Lampreave, admittedly quite funny, would have felt at home in those pictures; here, it just seems out of place. Though, to not-coin a phrase, Marisa Paredes is — no other word for it — fabulous (she looks like a cross between recent Lauren Bacall and Colleen Dewhurst) in the central role of a closeted romance-novel writer.

    With FLESH, the problem is a bit more fundamental than being an enjoyable film that doesn’t quite “jell.” It just feels like a sour raspberry. It’s a much darker film than anything Pedro had (or has) ever made. But the presence of an obsessive romantic, paired couples, an accidental crippling and the resulting nonconsummation (though Javier Bardem creates a real person, not a stunt role). It all made FLESH feel like a rough draft for TALK TO HER. But in this movie, “Benigno” the obsessive romantic loser (here named “Victor”) not only gets the girl, but gets rid of a rival whom we have no good reason to despise. Ick. Victor also lacks Benigno’s essential sweetness. Also, the intro and coda were utterly superfluous, other than giving the appearance of narrative rhyme and an excuse for Penelope Cruz to play a childbirth scene (the significance of Victor being born on the night he was completely escaped me, unless it really is as schematic and obvious as Pedro made it seem)

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  • My Toronto schedule
    (”The Illusionist” is briefly mentioned in this.)

    My Toronto schedule

    Labor Day has come and gone, so in honor of last year’s best film at the Toronto International Film Festival (and the best film to be released commercially in the US this year) — it’s mother-tiffing time. The schedulers have made several changes since last year — all of them bad IMHO.

    (1) basically all the Gala premieres are now special-ticket only and thus can’t be bought with passes, which means that with a lot of the Hollywood tentpole films, there’s only one chance (in a couple of cases, none) to see it; (2) they’ve extended the festival a day into a second Sunday, which I’m gonna take advantage of, but might make The Festival Wall even harder; (3) they’ve gutted the weekday morning programming (devoting fewer than half the number of screens as previous festivals) and backloaded the festival in terms of sheer numbers.

    As I said on my Twitter feed @vjmfilms, where I’ll have an instant reax to every movie I see, there is exactly one (1) film shown to the general public before 3pm Friday that looks like a more attractive experience than having my balls chewed off, and it has two (2) of the five (5) public screening slots in those two half-days (frankly, if I had seen the schedule before booking my plane and hotel, I’d have delayed my trip a day).

    But TIFF is still TIFF, and even when it looks like down, it’ll be awesome task to see 40+ films. There Joe and some other Cannes prize-winners, there’s Mike Leigh leading a flurry of promising looking British films, there are a bunch of mouth-watering documentaries by the genre’s masters, there are major sophomore efforts by Affleck (really), Chomet and Dolan, there are returns to roots (and maybe form) by Ozon and Tanovic, and a couple of new films from still-perfect-in-my-eyes Romania (a country that frankly TIFF has not led the way on).

    After the jump is what I have tickets for and so expect to see, with the proviso that good buzz can add films and bad buzz and tiredness can take them away.

    9 Sept
    930pm THE LEGEND OF THE FIST (Andy Lau, Hong Kong) Elgin

    10 Sept
    400pm A MARRIED COUPLE (Allan King, Canada, 1969) AMC 2
    600pm POETRY (Lee Chang-dong, South Korea) Scotiabank 2
    1000pm I’M STILL HERE (Casey Affleck, USA) Varsity 8
    midnight SUPER (James Gunn, USA) Ryerson

    11 Sept
    noon THE KING’S SPEECH (Tom Hooper, Britain) Ryerson
    330pm BOXING GYM (Frederick Wiseman, USA) AMC 7
    600pm THE STRANGE CASE OF ANGELICA (Manoel de Oliveira, Portugal) AMC 4
    800pm LOVE CRIME (Alain Corneau, France) Winter Garden

    12 Sept
    930am CIRKUS COLUMBIA (Danis Tanovic, Bosnia) AMC 6
    noon THE CONSPIRATOR (Robert Redford, USA) Ryerson
    230pm THE ILLUSIONIST (Sylvain Chomet, Britain/France) Elgin
    630pm TABLOID (Errol Morris, USA) Lightbox 2
    930pm NORWEGIAN WOOD (Tran Anh Hung, Japan) AMC 7

    13 Sept
    1230pm CLIENT 9: THE RISE AND FALL OF ELIOT SPITZER (Alex Gibney, USA) Winter Garden
    330pm TAMARA DREWE (Stephen Frears, Britain) AMC 7
    600pm ANOTHER YEAR (Mike Leigh, Britain) Elgin
    900pm WAVELENGTHS 6: COMING ATTRACTIONS (anthology program; various) Jackman Hall
    midnight THE WARD (John Carpenter, USA) Ryerson

    14 Sept
    1100am BLACK SWAN (Darren Aronofsky, USA) Elgin
    230pm RABBIT HOLE (John Cameron Mitchell, USA) Elgin
    645pm HEARTBEATS (Xavier Dolan, Canada) Varsity 8
    900pm LEAP YEAR (Michael Rowe, Mexico) AMC 3

    15 Sept
    930am POTICHE (Francois Ozon, France) Varsity 8
    1230pm BURIED (Rodrigo Cortes, Spain/USA) Varsity 8
    300pm BRIGHTON ROCK (Rowan Joffe, Britain) AMC 6
    500pm CAVE OF FORGOTTEN DREAMS (Werner Herzog, USA) AMC 7
    915pm KABOOM! (Gregg Araki, USA) Ryerson
    1045pm PROMISES WRITTEN IN WATER (Vincent Gallo, USA) Isabel Bader Theatre

    16 Sept
    noon BLUE VALENTINE (Derek Cianfrance, USA) Varsity 8
    300pm MEEK’S CUTOFF (Kelly Reichardt, USA) Ryerson
    530pm THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF NICOLAE CEAUSESCU (Andrei Ujica, Romania) AMC 10
    1030pm UNCLE BOONMEE WHO CAN RECALL HIS PAST LIVES (Apichatpong Weerasethakul aka “Joe,” Thailand) Isabel Bader Theatre

    17 Sept
    900am IT’S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY (Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden, USA) Varsity 8
    1230pm DETECTIVE DEE AND THE MYSTERY OF THE PHANTOM FLAME (Tsui Hark, Hong Kong) Lightbox 2
    300pm OF GODS AND MEN (Xavier Beauvois, France) Scotiabank 11
    600pm AFTERSHOCK (Feng Xiaogang, China) Elgin
    900pm RARE EXPORTS: A CHRISTMAS TALE (Jalmari Helander, Finland) AMC 7

    18 Sept
    930am OUTBOUND (Bogdan George Apetri, Romania) Scotiabank 3
    noon NEDS (Peter Mullan, Britain) Scotiabank3
    230pm NEVER LET ME GO (Mark Romanek, Britain) Elgin
    600pm 127 HOURS (Danny Boyle, Britain) Lightbox 1
    900pm THE TOWN (Ben Affleck, USA) Elgin

    19 Sept
    915am OKI’S MOVIE (Hong Sang-soo, South Korea) Scotiabank 1
    noon YOU WILL MEET A TALL DARK STRANGER (Woody Allen, Britain) AMC 6
    300pm THE TRIP (Michael Winterbottom, Britain) Ryerson
    600pm A SCREAMING MAN (Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, Chad) AMC 6

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    6 Comments »

    1. Wish I could be there, bud. If only for the Herzog…. and now great reviews of the Reichardt.

      Prediction: NEDS will be a fictionalised version of your youth… I expect a character called v-mort at the very least.

      Have a great time dude. My best to you all.

      Comment by Dan | September 8, 2010 | Reply

    2. But only one midnight? WTF?

      Comment by Dan | September 8, 2010 | Reply

    3. sorry, two, but still…

      Comment by Dan | September 8, 2010 | Reply

    4. Dan:

      I rarely went to more than about three Midnight Madnesses per fest, though some of them were unforgettable experiences (ONG BAK, THE HOST, SYMBOL). But after MARTYRS a couple of years ago and a British film the year before that became the second film in my life I walked out on, I basically wrote off Midnight Madness gore or horror films, which really leaves slim pickins. It not just the material, but the audience. The people at those screenings has the soul of a perverted sex criminal but without the balls of one. I’ll go for comedies, martial-arts and wtf-stuff like Hungarian gangsta-rap cartoons. But not a violent or horror films unless, like with one of the two Midnights for me this year, it’s by a Carpenter or a Miike or a Bong or someone of similar known stature and chops.

      Comment by vjmorton | September 9, 2010 | Reply

    5. Dante Lam is doing some good work in Hong Kong; “Fire of Conscience” is a solid action movie, with some of the best shootouts I’ve seen recently.

      Comment by Joe | September 11, 2010 | Reply

    6. Re #4 — that was Brit film was Christopher Smith’s horror-comedy SEVERANCE. IIRC you had issues with the bear trap scene (namely, as you mentioned, the audience reaction).

      Comment by Alex Fung | September 12, 2010 | Reply


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  • Disturbing Our Self-Delight
    (”The Illusionist” is briefly mentioned in this.)
    That’s a phrase I’m going to remember – and, hopefully, steal. I’m going to disagree with a number of Deresiewicz’s judgments while agreeing with his basic presence. Our Town is considerably more than audience-flattering sentimentalism, and “Tree of Life” may be peddling something, but it isn’t empty uplift. On the other hand, I question how “disruptive” “The Wire” really is, and I can spot the sentimentalism lurking behind Cormac McCarthy’s bloody mask. And don’t knock great art that aimed to be popular. You tell me I can’t delight in Alfred Hitchcock or John Ford or Billy Wilder because they are flattering my sentimentalism and I’ll tell you to jump in a lake. But he’s got “Upper Midcult” dead to rights. The trouble with the kind of art he’s criticizing is that it’s self-involved without being self-examining. And that’s a particularly bad combination. I wonder, though, whether “Upper Midcult” is a type of art, or just a style. Flattering your audience’s assumptions, after all, is pretty common in popular art. Take a guy like Aaron Sorkin (please). He’s clearly an enormously talented craftsman, but I’m pretty sure he’s never challenged anybody’s assumptions about anything, least of all his own. But I’m not going out on a limb to say that – his films, after all, are Midcult. His “seriousness” is precisely the type that isn’t supposed to challenge anybody. Someone like Wes Anderson, though, who clearly has a highly idiosyncratic vision that he pursues with great determination, seems like he’s doing something different. Something more like art. But it’s not an art that, in my experience, takes significant emotional risks, or asks itself questions that it doesn’t already know the answers to. I don’t sense, watching a Wes Anderson film, like he’s discovering something. The style fools people into thinking it’s something it isn’t – but what it is isn’t something evil, just something more akin to Midcult than its afficionados would like to believe. I don’t think it’s hard to find art that “disturbs our self-delight,” though. Not at the movies, anyway. I certainly thought “The Master” cleared that bar. So did “Blue Valentine.” But so did other movies that are not as obviously stylish – “Rachel Getting Married,” or “Greenberg,” or “Martha Marcy Mae Marlene,” to name a few films from the last few years that took significant emotional risks. And I think it should be clear that “disturb our self-delight” doesn’t have to mean, “disturb our delight.” One can be delighted without being flattered in our self-regard, delighted by something that takes us out of ourselves. “Bernie” – again, to pick a recent film that makes the cut from my perspective – is a delightful movie; disturbing in its way, but subtly so, and designed to go down easy. And it doesn’t delight by flattering its audience. “I Love You, Phillip Morris” is another one in that vein. Going in a different direction, “The Illusionist,” is an absolutely charming, sweet-and-sad little fable, the sort of thing that Wes Anderson undoubtedly loves. But I suspect Anderson is too self-conscious to create a world so convincingly independent of himself. And yet, even that isn’t necessary for art to move us. “Synecdoche, New York” is a massively self-involved movie – about as self-involved as a movie can be. But it’s painful because it offers itself no false comforts. It’s a massive, elaborate construct, and it’s about how art – and life – is just such a construct. But it’s not satisfied with that fact, the way our soulless confectionists seem to be. It’s terrified of that fact. And so will you be, if you let it sink its teeth into you. I’m rambling at this point. Perhaps I just like talking about movies – and art – and perhaps I just like arguing with Alan Jacobs, even when I suspect we basically agree. But I keep coming back to the same point. Art is an expression of the soul, and its greatness is related to the quality of that expression, which, in turn, is related to the degree to which it escapes the trap of flattering the audience. Wes Anderson is an accomplished stylist. If he makes a movie that exposes his soul – what lies behind the persona that we already know – I’ll want to see it. ]]>
    ...
    (Review Source)

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