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Director Sylvain Chomet (The Triplets of Belleville, The Illusionist) invokes memories of Buster Keaton and Jacques Tati in his first live-action film, about a mute, sweet-natured man-child whose reawakened childhood memories unleash marvellous musical fantasies.
With The Triplets of Belleville and The
Illusionist, French director Sylvain Chomet
created animated films of unusual wit and
delicacy, charming audiences with stories
and characters that seemed to emerge from
some gentler era. For Attila Marcel, his first
live-action feature film, Chomet recreates
that era with all the visual invention of his
Paul is a sweet man-child, raised — and
smothered — by his two eccentric aunts in
Paris since the death of his parents when
he was a toddler. Now thirty-three, he still
does not speak. (He does express himself
through colourful suits that would challenge
any Wes Anderson character in nerd
chic.) Paul's aunts have only one dream for
him: to win piano competitions. Although
Paul practices dutifully, he remains unfulfilled
until he submits to the interventions
of his upstairs neighbour. Suitably named
after the novelist, Madame Proust offers
Paul a concoction that unlocks repressed
memories from his childhood and awakens
the most delightful of fantasies.
Guillaume Gouix plays Paul as an
innocent lifted from a silent comedy, his
face welcoming the strangest of sights
with simple, open curiosity. And Chomet
gives Paul much to witness. The rails of a
staircase become a musical instrument.
Ukuleles take on totemic force. A tango-dancing
scene between Paul's parents
shifts to wrestling, and back again.
Designing this live-action film with
the same grace he brought to his animation,
Chomet wraps Paul's adventure
in deadpan absurdity that draws comparisons
to Buster Keaton and Jacques Tati.
As with those directors, and with Wes
Anderson, Chomet's whimsy carries serious
intent. Attila Marcel is a sad comedy about
time passing, memories recalled, and the
ephemeral beauty of life.
- Sylvain Chomet
- Sylvain Chomet was born in Maisons-
Laffitte, Yvelines, near Paris. Initially
a comic writer, he made his directorial
debut with the animated short
La vieille dame et les pigeons (98),
before making his feature debut with
The Triplets of Belleville (03). His
other credits as director include the
live-action Tour Eiffel short in Paris, Je
t'aime (06), and the animated feature
The Illusionist (10). Attila Marcel (13)
is his latest film.