The last few years have seen some of modern animation’s most acclaimed directors make forays into live action. Notably Brad Bird and Andrew Stanton made the jump from Pixar to, respectively, the Mission: Impossible franchise and John Carter. With Attila Marcel, Sylvain Chomet (The Illusionist) follows that same path, albeit with a fairly modest feature in his native France.
Mute piano player Paul (Gouix) lives with his overprotective aunts and longs for his deceased parents, whose exact cause of death when he was an infant has eluded him for decades. He strikes up a friendship with kooky neighbour Madame Proust (Le Ny), whose drugged teas help him explore his memories, while some absurdist, mostly irritating comedy surrounds this main storyline.
Attila Marcel admittedly avoids pummelling one with as much whimsy as the worst efforts of Jean-Pierre Jeunet, whose films it somewhat resembles in story and tone, but there’s not much here to really engage with; Chomet carries over little expressiveness from his animations to live action filmmaking. It’s never awful, but it’s always flat.