I have not seen Triplets of Belleville or any of Chomet's other work, so I got some help.
TRIPLETS OF BELLEVILLE V. THE ILLUSIONIST
The animation in Triplets of Belleville is clunky, thick lines, and has a heavy color palate. The Illusionist is more refined, elegant, more easy on the eyes, and geared towards a more youthful audience. Story line in Belleville is too bizarre and trying for most. Would have been stronger if just about the triplets. Belleville contains a darker humor than The Illusionist's sophisticated and simple humor. It also contains a relatable story line, which is emotionally affecting and inspires nostalgia.
A TATI MASTERPIECEKarl Starkweather
Jacque Tati is one of my favorite directors, while Chomet created this film, The Illusionist is a Tati film. Tati's tramp, Mr. Hulot, finds the beauty in the smaller things of life, even when hardship comes upon them. I personally find his films life affirming then. While the main character in this film is not of Mr. Hulot, the illusionist character in this film moves and operates in the same fashion.
The film beings with an homage to the Nouvelle Vague and Mr. Hulot's Holiday. Then it ascends into a beautiful testament to who the Cashiers guys put into the same pantheon as Chaplin, Keaton and Linder. It has the same camera aesthetic as a Tati film, with Tati's preference for the WS long take, but it has the Chomet's animation style. That, as Bredan stated, is not akin to Tati's high speed film pop-art style established in Mon Oncle and Playtime, but in Traffic the vibrancy was lost (see below). Other than the shot composition being almost 100% Tati's, all the other visual components is a more "refined" and "elegant" version of his past "clunky, thick lines, and heavy color palate" style. In short, the 'acting' and visual style is so similar, it as if we are in the time of Tati, able to go see one of his films in theaters.
From the autuer perspective, this film brings us deeper into Tati's art. This film, like his others, contains an older gentleman bonding with the youth. On the surface there is the political comment about the stifling nature of modernization, which comes into the contention with the eternal innocence of youth. In this film, the illusionist gets a short term gig at a bar with Alice, who finds his old style magic tricks enchanting and the idea-scary to most children-of just running away from your family as exciting. She embodies a youthful spirit, but is also captivating by what she can't have when she gets to the city where the illusionist acquires a steady job. This element, of Tati trying to please a youth, especially a younger lady, was apparent in his other films. As only Tati scholars would now and this film informs you at the end, that Tati had an estranged child, which we're informed by a dedication to Helga Marie-Jeanne Schiel at the end of the film. This is a new development in the biography of Tati, for most Tati adherents would assume this was about his regret of not properly raising Sophie Tatischeff. Helga, his other daughter, was supposedly conceived in WWII and Schiel's children petitioned and won to get her to be the dedication at the end of the film, which originally was going to go to Sophie who passed away in 2001. Controversy aside, this film plays more on his altruism towards a younger gal, which we realize is a sad apologia produced out of immense regret about his treatment of Sophie and also possibly Helga. Why Tati was a poor father is a question that will only open new pathways into Tati's art.
TATI THE AUTUER:
TATI'S LIMELIGHT:Chaplin's Limelight was one of his best films, this is in many ways is Tati's Limelight. Chaplin in his film played Calvero, a stage clown from the vaudeville days. It is one of the best films about comedy and performance ever made. It parallels The Illusionist with the sense that both films are about dying arts. Chaplin was a stage performer who turned filmmaker at the time of stage's demise, the mime Tati fell into the same boat. This film about a stage magician in a age of movies and rock music is about those who exist under the radar, doing their craft, just getting by. The illusionist's fellow stage performers in this film are depressed and impoverished. A ventriloquist has to sell his dummy and in a surprisingly comedic scene, a clown attempts suicide. For as Calvero jokingly states in Limelight that many a stage performer engaged in substance abuse and/or committed suicide, especially the comedians. Tati must of seen the same demise of several a fellow stage performer, so this is also a testament to his past.
DIFFERENCEAside from the aesthetic difference in color and contrast, this film is not akin to his futurist Mon Oncle and Playtime. Yet, most accounts state it was written around the same time as Mon Oncle. The world established in this film, of small villages in England and a city not as futurist as Playtime, has more of an affinity to the pre-pop-art futurist absurdity mise-en-cine of the Mr. Hulot's Holiday. Then some could could argue then that since this film was never made, maybe the guard put up by Tati with his Hulot character was to protect the personal. That since this film was never made, maybe he opted to never blatantly expose himself? I personally do not find the less cartoon aspect of the illusionist character to be offensive. There is still a lot of Hulot in it, still a lot of purposefully distance from what had to be personal, which means Tati fanatics still will have the pleasure of exploring this artist.
Rating: GLORIOUS. I feel it is a perfect film, in line with Playtime and Mon Oncle, which are true masterpeices. A beautiful testament to Tati.