Friday, 20 August 2010

The Illusionist review

The Illusionist (PG, 80 mins)
Director: Sylvain Chomet
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

Based on an unproduced script by the inexplicably popular French comedian Jacques Tati, this near-silent animation is set in a lovingly rendered Edinburgh in the 1950s. A struggling magician leaves Paris and heads to Britain looking for work, steadily making his way north until he ends up in a village in the Highlands. There he befriends a young girl and they make their way to Edinburgh where he tries to find work while she attempts to put him in the poor house with her constant demands and expensive tastes in shoes and clothes. Looking like a forlorn watercolour, there’s no doubt that Edinburgh has probably never looked lovelier on film. But there’s a good deal more entertainment value to be had trying to recognise city landmarks than there is in the wafer thin story itself. It’s intended as paean to the dying of music hall tradition and a gentler way of life, but there’s a very good reason why such variety acts are a thing of the past. It’s little more than an extended sketch, with side characters and subplots that threaten to be interesting but are then discarded as quickly as they're introduced, while the girl’s indeterminate age makes the nature of their relationship questionable. It could have made for a charming short but as a feature, it’s stretched almost beyond endurance.

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