Antoine Cossé’s richly cinematic tale of a world-famous magician known only as ‘M’ blurs the lines between truth and trick.
Taking place predominately in the back seat of a car as a journalist and troupe of supposed waiters journey across France to see M’s latest, much-hyped comeback stunt, Crossé’s new comic Showtime, published by Breakdown Press, is sewn together haphazardly from memories and dreams. These are perfect storytelling devices for the French illustrator’s delicate drawing style: using watercolour, ink, and pencil, his renderings often look like reflections in a puddle or mascara stains gathering around teary eyes. They provide poignant form for the story’s themes of subjectivity and perception.
A boat hovers above the ocean at night; a sheet the size of a skyscraper hangs in the sky, unsupported; a mirage appears where Trafalgar Square seems to be filled with desert sand. If such a large group of spectators saw these magical spectacles unfold, how can they not have happened?
Cossé’s complex, densely woven narrative draws on the power of collective memory, the ways that myth and fable construct identity, and how individual psychology can affect the perception of reality. There’s pathos to Showtime reminiscent of a Sylvain Chomet animation, especially his 2010 film about a struggling magician The Illusionist, based on a previously unrealised script by Jaques Tati. Yet Cossé takes this trope of nostalgic, showbiz astonishment and marries it with the hysteria around a David Blaine endurance stunt or even a political media storm, probing at the idea of what we want to believe, what we really believe, and how belief comes into being in the first place.
Showtime’s cleverness lies in its form, in its eerie rhythms and swift changes in brush stroke; in the way that figures and scenery slip and tangle, illusionistic tricks in themselves. It’s a story of collective and individual consciousness, engaging the viewer with the realities of constantly making, unmaking, and remaking the notion of truth.