Directed by Sylvain Chomet, who gave us the wonderful and wonderfully quirky The Triplets Of Belleville, this animated movie (from an unproduced script by Jacques Tati) will delight fans of the Frenchman’s previous work and resonate particularly strongly with those who have connected at some time with the city lovingly depicted as the surround for this charming tale: the city of Edinburgh.
The illusionist of the title is one of a dying breed, a music hall performer being pushed further and further aside by up-and-coming rock stars and disinterested audiences. He spends more time wrestling with his grumpy, chubby rabbit than he does receiving applause. But when he decides to head to the UK he finds his luck changing slightly for the better. A chance encounter with a Scotsman leads to a journey up North and the start of a friendship with a young woman, who views the illusionist as someone with very real magic abilities. The two end up in Edinburgh but just how long can the illusionist keep up the façade, and at what cost?
It isn’t often that I come out of a movie screening with the word “delightful” blazing brightly in my mind but there is no better description of Chomet’s latest movie. As a resident of the featured city, born and raised here, I can’t really separate certain aspects of the movie from it’s absolutely beautiful rendering of the place. I had goosebumps for a large portion of the film thanks to Chomet’s eye, style and skill.
The “performances” within the movie are all wonderful, whether it’s the grumpy rabbit or a depressed clown at the very end of his rope. The central pairing of the tired illusionist and the effervescent young lass provides the film with a core that is full of innocence and promise yet also contains shades of jaded cynicism and darkness in there.
Each frame is a treat for the eye and there is always some detail to take note of, some little joke to tickle you if you look for it. I was particularly amused by the Scottish chip shop sign that announced it sold deep fried chocolate bars and other artery-hardening treats but that salad was unavailable (hey, it’s even funnier because there’s a truth there). The Cameo cinema (well known to Edinburgh residents who enjoy arthouse fare) featuring a poster for The Triplets Of Belleville and showing a live-action Tati movie is another great joke/reference and brilliantly executed too. And one spinning move from the midst of Arthur’s Seat to show the city centre in all it’s grandeur is a moment of cinema I am unlikely to forget for many years to come, it was so exciting, unexpected and beautiful.
Not quite up there, in terms of rhythm and gag quota, with his very best work, Chomet has still given us something very special. A love song to the great entertainers of yesteryear in general, to Tati in particular and to the city of Edinburgh.
DIRECTOR: SYLVAIN CHOMET
STARRING: EDINBURGH & JACQUES TATI (in spirit)
RUNTIME: 88 MINS APPROX
COUNTRY: UK, France