Screened as part of NZIFF 2010
Sylvain Chomet, whose The Triplets of Belleville debuted to the great delight of Festival audiences in 2004, has a new classic for us, droll, tender and packed with lively little jokes. Based on an unfilmed script by comic genius Jacques Tati, it’s the tale of a music hall magician who travels (with truculent white rabbit) from Paris to London to Scotland in pursuit of ever-smaller stages for his one-man show. Arriving on a far-flung Scottish isle on the very day that electricity first goes live, he finds himself playing adopted father to a sweetly wilful, impressionable young woman who thinks his magic is real.
Set largely in Edinburgh in the late 50s, as vaudeville dwindles and rock ’n’ roll and television surge forth, The Illusionist is like Triplets’ wistful twin, precise and drily comic in the manner of Tati, but glowing with nostalgia for the antics of the old variety entertainers. It’s also an exquisitely rendered declaration of love for Scotland and for Edinburgh in particular. Chomet fell for the city when he presented Triplets at the Edinburgh Film Festival and settled there soon after. This film is steeped in its Georgian loveliness and Gothic splendours, the mists and shifting lights and shadows. — BG
“Delightful… A very happy marriage of Tati’s and Chomet’s distinctive artistic sensibilities. Audiences who don’t expect animation to be aimed squarely at kids or to feature the latest technology will be utterly entranced by The Illusionist’s old-school magic… A thrilling exercise in retro aesthetics, from the pencil-and-watercolor look… to the details that perfectly evoke Scotland in the 1950s.” — Leslie Felperin, Variety
“I've never seen a city drawn with this much loving attention to detail.” — David Larsen, NZ Listener