Thursday, 14 October 2010

Homage to Edinburgh, Homage to Tati.

It is unusual for me to enthuse about a film, but last night in a packed GFT, I sawThe Illusionist, the film which opened this year's Edinburgh Film Festival. It was a beautifully written, drawn and filmed piece of animé. A true homage by its creator - Sylvain Chomet - to his temporary home city of Edinburgh, and to the film's screenplay writer - Jacques Tati.

The screenplay was written for Tati's daughter and never filmed during his life. She presented it to Chomet, and he switched the action from Prague to Edinburgh and spent 5 years in the city producing it. It has been worth it. As an adopted weegie, I have never seen Edinburgh look so beautiful, or so realistic. Although set in the late 50's/early 60's, you can truly identify parts of the city - Salisbury Crags; Victoria Street and, of course, the Cameo cinema all feature, as does the West Coast of Scotland - with driving rain!

The film is also an homage to Tati himself, with the illusionist of the title being based on Tati's creation - M. Hulot. And what a superb piece of work he is! Not simply the Hulot of Vacances, or even the one of Playtime - confused by modern life - here Tatischeff (Tati's birth name) is a much more care worn prestidigitateur, but still keen not to disillusion his young ward.

As his fortunes decline - it is the early days of rock and roll, and no-one is watching old-style variety any more - hers increase, until the inevitable heart-tugging parting. But the film can be watched for a whole variety of reasons as well as the gorgeous production. The storyline is both funny and sad - watch the scene with the stew that she has prepared, and that he thinks contains his white rabbit. The rabbit, by the way, is probably one of the main supporting stars of the picture!

While the main characters are painfully realistic, many of the supporting cast are superbly surreal. Chomet enjoys himself with the inhabitants of the theatrical hotel, american tourists, and not least with the drunken highland laird, who first books Tatischeff for Scotland.

See this if you like Edinburgh; see this if you like Tati; see this if you like the 50's, but above all - see it!!

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