EIFF – The Illusionist Review 16/06/10


Much hype has surrounded this film given that it is the opening gala for this years Edinburgh International Film Festival just about completely selling out the 1000+ capacity of the Festival theatre the day tickets were released.

Introduced by a short speech from the Artistic Director of the EIFF, Hannah McGill and Director of the film, Sylvain Chomet, the audience were met with an entertaining yet sincere man who claimed Edinburgh to be better than Cannes and emphasised his love of the city in which the film was set.

A perfect beginning to the festival, Chomet captured the essence of Edinburgh’s streets, buildings and bridges without ever being too brash focusing on beautiful animation rather than the ever increasing affectation of 3D imaging which often substitutes quality for dazzlement. There is a definite delight in the recognition of Princes street, Arthur’s Seat and the department store Jenners where Chomet conveys these noteworthy landmarks in his own pastiche style.

Similar to previous effort Bellevile Rendez-vous, the script contains little to no dialogue instead emphasising actions and expressions to allow for conversation, this is made more understandable by the language barrier present in title character Tatischeff.

The film seems to highlight a dejected sense of nostalgia where the emergence of rock and roll bands has meant the incurring end of other entertainers. This is only made more apparent in the amiable naivety of Tatischeff’s child companion Alice who seems to be convinced of the performer’s authenticity and thus becomes the focus of  her attention but which falters as she ages and is led to more interesting passions such as boys.

However, despite a stunning closing scene there is a feeling that the film is wrapped up too abruptly. It is a story underlined with melancholy but which lacks convincing enough characterisation. Although it was very special and indeed appropriate having the elegant portrayal of Edinburgh there is a wonder that having been set in foreign surroundings it would have lost much of  its magical appeal.

Opening Night Gala For The Edinburgh International Film Festival

Tonight marks the opening of the 64th annual Edinburgh International Film Festival. Beginning in 1947 it is the longest continually running film festival showcasing a selection of both international and national productions and seeing premieres of some of the best loved films.

The opening Gala is the much anticipated The Illusionist from French director Sylvain Chomet based on an original script by Jacques Tati and starring an animated version of himself. Chomet was first introduced to the EIFF in 2003 with Belleville Rendez-vous which was nominated for two Oscars (Best Animated Feature and Best Song) and in 2004 Chomet founded the animation studio Django Films in Edinburgh, the setting for this most recent work.

The film follows a failing illusionist whose performances are being increasingly replaced by the emergence of rock and roll bands. This leads him to journey from France to Edinburgh in search of shows which he only manages to obtain in the most obscure of places but along the way he meets a young companion who is convinced of his magical abilities thus paving the way for an endearing friendship.

The film has been described on the EIFF website to be “Rich with visual jokes, seductive 1950s period detail and breathtaking views of the city and wilderness alike, this is the work of a master in his field – and one of the most gorgeous evocations of Scotland in history”.

The President of the Michael Powell award Jury has been named as Sir Patrick Stewart and he will be joined by Bond girl and star of The Wickerman, Britt Ekland, director of Get Carter and Croupier, Mike Hodges, award winning Iranian director, Rafi Pitts and senior film curator of the New York Museum of Art, Laurence Kardish.

Other notable personalities involved in the Juries include Jason Isaacs who plays Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter films and actor and comedian Ben Miller on the jury for Best International Feature award and Man on Wire producer, Simon Chinn on the Documentary Jury.

Further celebrities expected to be attending this evening include Sir Sean Connery, screenwriter Nick Hornby and Ugly Betty star America Ferrera.

Unfortunately I am only around for the first few days of the film festival and so am only going to a handful of productions but already judging from the lineup it is looking to be an entertaining festival and I am extremely excited about this evening.