Opening Night Gala
Sylvain Chomet / UK, France / 2010 / 83 mins
With rolling hills and botanical gardens but enough theatres and art galleries that even the most pretentious of dilettantes would find it hard to complain, Edinburgh can boast the position as one of the most awe-inspiring capital cities in the developed world, at least when it’s sunny. It’s no surprise then, that Sylvain Chomet became infatuated with the city when he came to EIFF in 2003 with Belleville Rendezvous and moved here shortly after.
Adapted from Jacques Tati’s script, The Illusionist is set in the 1950s and follows a Monsieur Hulot – type character as he performs his effects and attempts to start a new life in a different country. Followed by a young cleaner girl, Alice, the pair move to Edinburgh but as she becomes obsessed with a new kind of materialism and the wonder of affluence the battle between the natural self and industry begins.
Both macabre and funny, The Illusionist is a genuinely moving film able to deliver with an affectionate eye the awesome power of the city’s setting nestled in the hills. In a unique position to challenge the difficulties of attempting to start a new life in a foreign city and able to see Scottish culture from a different angle, Chomet manages to capture “Free Scotland” graffiti and the cobbled streets with a kind of innocent inquisitiveness that has rarely been captured on film so clearly. But, even more impressive is the backdrop of the boom that followed WWII. The window of Jenners sparkles, women walk the streets in elegant dresses and the introduction of jukeboxes to old-man pubs all feature, glowing in the eyes of young Alice. A spectacular film filled with parallels of the new vs. the old. Not to be missed.
16 June, 21:45 at Festival Theatre : Sold Out
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