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April 15, 2011


The Kentucky Theater
Lexington, Kentucky

This is a reflection shot that I liked because it seemed to project the character of the sign into the modern street of Lexington Kentucky. Google is using an embedded film in their search banner to remind us that it is the birthday of Charlie Chaplin. Seems appropriate to post this photo and talk about the movie The Illusionist that I saw at the Kentucky Theater recently.

First off, The Illusionist is a cartoon. I've long ago lost my ability to enjoy cartoons, sadly enough, and that is probably one of the things of life you shouldn't loose. When I found out the movie could be characterized as a silent cartoon for adults, my curiosity got the best of me. The film is actually an animated comedic drama film according to Wikipedia and is based on an unproduced 1956 script by the French mime, director, and actor Jacques Tati (again all from Wikipedia). The storyline revolves around a tall lanky character who (as the photo above depicts) is a formal 'gentleman' who is a magician in a changing time where electricity and television are altering the world of entertainment and making him obsolete. He chases the audience from place to place, even travels to a remote island where he is welcomed with outstretched arms. All is not well there either, as we see electricity lines being strung through the town on the evening of his arrival. He has one good night there before the jukebox is wheeled into the tavern and life gets changed there too.

The pivotal point, if not the main part of the movie is when he encounters a young girl who believes he actually possesses the magic. She stows away and follows with him and they become much like a father and daughter pair with him maintaining the illusion that his powers are real. They become associated with other stage acts that are also facing a similar employment problem. Eventually, he has to sell his magic kit and take jobs that he is untrained for, such as an auto mechanic. I'll leave the rest for you to find but you can see that the film has everything to do with today's world of disappearing newspapers, bookstores, neighborhood hardware stores and such things that we all value but no longer find as fascinating as I-pads, electronic gizmos, and fast changing flashy establishments.

All of this is told to the audience without the use of dialog, or at least words that you can understand. The viewer has to work at it, you are not spoon-fed the story line and it requires that you interpret the scene much like you would figure out a complex still image posted on this or any other web page. We have become used to giving images a 10 second look and this movie requires that you change your lazy approach. You just have to watch the details of the movie to know what is going on and once you get to that point, then it is a rich movie full of emotions.

When the credits started rolling at the end, we were sitting there and I heard the words 'That was so sad.....'. Those are profound words coming after a movie with no understandable words.