Sunday, April 24, 2011

►Sylvain Chomet - French comic writer, animator and film director

►... Once upon a time in the mind of a poet, there was a small, dimly lit cottage. In this cottage lived a brain, two narrow eyes, a grinning mouth, and two crooked hands. The brain, the two narrow eyes, the grinning mouth, and the two crooked hands were sitting around the table for tea. While the tea was being prepared, there came a knock at the door. The crooked hands opened the door. At the opening stood a figure draped in a silk, black cloak and wearing silk, black gloves. Without saying a word, the cloaked figure walked into the room and made itself comfortable at the small wooden table. The brain began to shudder; the two narrow eyes became even narrower; the grinning mouth grimaced. The crooked hands, however, rested on the table, fingers interlaced, and waited. The cloaked figure pushed forward a small gilded chest, encrusted with ruby rose petals. On the top of the chest was inscribed the words: "Offer me your most prized possession and I shall give you a special treasure."...

Sylvain Chomet has created some of the most tragic, elegant, twisted stories in film history. Though his career has tumultuous, it would be irresponsible for any animator worth his salt to deny the sheer potency of the man’s genius. The above story seems to me a fable of talents. Is it the mind, the eyes, the mouth, or the hands that makes a man truly a master of his craft?
As far as artists go, Sylvain Chomet wasn’t any different than most students who want to make their mark on the world. He started in ordinary fashion – raised in Maisons-Laffitte, Yvelines, near Paris, he attended a high school for the arts and published his first comic in 1986, four years after his graduation from high school. As many up-and-coming artists with an eye for the extraordinary (despite their surroundings), he moved to London to fulfill his destiny as an animator at the Richard Purdum studio.
Sylvain Chomet has been a prolific film and commercials maker for over 25 years.
His first film (1996) was : "The Old lady and the Pigeons", a animated short set in Paris which won, amongst many other awards, a BAFTA and the Annecy Grand Prize and also gave him his first Oscar nomination.
His next film, the feature length "Triplets of Belleville" (2003) continued his style of minimal or no dialogue alongside his unique animation look and take on the world. Again, many world awards followed and two Oscar nominations.
In the same year he started directing several commercials including work for United Airlines.
In 2005 he completed his live action debut directing a segment of the critically acclaimed "Paris Je T’aime", produced by Claudie Ossard  (Amelie) and including segments from Joel and Ethan Coen , Wes Craven and Gurinder Chadha amongst others.
His latest feature, "The Illusionist" based on a unfilmed script by Jacques Tati has already won the New York Critics Prize and was nominated for best animated feature at the 2011 Academy Awards.


The Triplets of Belleville (French: Les Triplettes de Belleville) is a 2003 animated adventure film written and directed by Sylvain Chomet. 

It was released as Belleville Rendez-vous in the United Kingdom. The film is Chomet's first feature film and was an international co-production between companies in France, the United Kingdom, United States, Belgium and Canada.

The film features the voices of Michèle Caucheteux, Jean-Claude Donda, Michel Robin, and Monica Viegas; there is little dialogue, the majority of the film story being told through song and pantomime, it is the almost completely unspoken story.The movie is also accompanied by an animated short that is supposedly collaboration by Salvador Dali. Great animated surreal adventure film, emotional and humorous; feature of appalling originality and scary charm. The film was highly praised for its unique, exceptional and somewhat retro style of animation.

Adopted by his grandmother, Madame Souza, Champion is a lonely little boy. Noticing that the lad is never happier than on a bicycle, Madame Souza puts him through a rigorous training process. Years go by and Champion becomes worthy of his name. 

Now he is ready to enter the world-famous cycling race the Tour de France. However during this cycling contest, two mysterious men in black kidnap Champion. Madame Souza and her faithful dog Bruno set out to rescue him. 

Their quest takes them across the ocean to a giant megalopolis called Belleville where they encounter the renowned Triplets of Belleville, three eccentric female music-hall stars from the '30s who decide to take Madame Souza and Bruno under their wing. 

Thanks to Bruno's brilliant sense of smell, the brave duo are soon on to Champion's trail. But will they succeed in beating the devilish plans of the evil French mafia?


The Illusionist (French: L'Illusionniste) is a 2010 animated comedic drama film directed by Sylvain Chomet. 
The film is based on an unproduced script written by French mime, director and actor Jacques Tati in 1956. Controversy surrounds Tati's motivation for the script, which was written as a personal letter to his estranged eldest daughter, Helga Marie-Jeanne Schiel in collaboration with his long-term writing partner Henri Marquet, between writing for the films Mon Oncle and Playtime.

The main character is a version of Tati animated by Laurent Kircher. The plot revolves around a struggling illusionist who visits an isolated community and meets a young lady who is convinced that he is a real magician.
The Illusionist is an animated wonder from filmmaker Sylvain Chomet, whose Triplets of Belleville earned him two Oscar nominations.

The film was created from a script written by Jacques Tati, and the story traces a type of father/ daughter relationship between a middle-aged magician and the adolescent girl who places herself in his life.
The story begins in Paris. His flawless illusions notwithstanding, our skilled magician has an ill-fitting suit and a single poster, items that suggest his glory days are behind him. It's the late '50s, and we watch him sharing the bill with rock bands in halls that are deserted once the mop-top pop princes finish their set. He takes it all in sober stride, rarely changing his serious expression.
A cheerfully drunk Scotsman engages Monsieur Tatischeff - Jacques Tati's real surname - and gets him to travel to a pub in Scotland to put on a show.

The pub is in a remote fishing village, and there Tatischeff encounters the girl, who is employed as a cleaner. She happily washes and irons all the illusionist's shirts. He notices her terrible, tattered shoes and replaces them with a pair of beautiful red Mary Janes. Fixated on her new hero and believing him capable of real magic, the girl secretly follows him to Edinburgh.

There, Monsieur Tatischeff is surprised but apparently not dismayed to find he has been followed. He and the girl set up housekeeping together; he works at his magic, and she keeps house. She also shows him, in shop windows, exactly the sort of beautiful shoes and grown-up clothes she fancies. He works and budgets to buy what she wants, and we watch her slowly blossom into a sophisticated young woman.

The rooming house where the illusionist and the girl stay is filled with elderly and castoff personnel from the circus and the carnival; they are wonderfully brought to life by Chomet, although mostly heart-breaking in their isolation and poverty. The characters in the story are completely three-dimensional, quite a feat considering there's almost no dialogue.

And they exist in an extraordinary landscape. Chomet presents Edinburgh as a place so magical that you'll be inspired to hop on a plane and see it for yourself. Meanwhile, little girls must eventually grow up, which means that The Illusionist ends on a bittersweet note. Of course, art comes first.

For fans of Tati and students of animation, The Illusionist probably represents some kind of nirvana. For everybody else, it's a chance to enter a magical, dreamlike world created by the genius of these two artists.

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