Saturday, September 18, 2010
While I was in Edinburgh, I went to the cinema (a rarity for me) to see Sylvain Chomet's new film, The Illusionist. Chomet is the director of the superb Belleville Rendezvous. I'm not usually one for cartoons (excepting the magnificent Donald Duck, of course, one of my role models), but Belleville Rendezvous was just outstanding, with an emotional pull you wouldn't believe possible from animation. And since The Illusionist is actually set in Edinburgh, how could I not go and see it?
It's an outstanding film. The drawings are superb, as you would expect, giving an impressive sense of place. The screenplay is by Jacques Tati, for a film he never made, and tells the story of an ageing illusionist in the 1950s/60s, at a time when variety and this type of act were becoming passe. The magician in the film is a cartoon version of Tati himself, and after failing in France he heads for Scotland, first up in the isles, and then in Edinburgh, and along the way he is joined by a young Scottish girl. That's about it. The plot is minimal, there is virtually no dialogue, there are no human beings on show, and yet this film still manages to stir the emotions to a remarkable degree. Throughout, the whimsical humour is shot through with a pathos which leaves the viewer with a nagging sense of dread that something terrible should befall this lovely, gentle, unworldly old man. In the end, the film is a plea for kindness and consideration. You leave the cinema thinking that might, just, be possible.