the-illusionist-feb-2ndAdapted by Chomet (Belleville Rendez-Vous, 2003) from Jacques Tati’s unproduced screenplay, this animated film tells the sad story of Tatischeff, a magician down on his luck in a bleak but beautifully realised Edinburgh. He is befriended by a girl, a devoted fan, who selflessly devotes herself to him. The attention to detail makes this a superior piece of film making. (Cert PG)
Dir: Sylvain Chomet 77 mins UK/Fra. 2010
to be shown with

Written by and starring Jacques Tati as Roger, a farmhand, who finds himself recruited by a troupe of travelling fighters as a sparring partner despite a complete lack of experience. (Cert U)
Dir: René Clément 12 mins France 1936

Programme Notes

The Illusionist
UK/Fra. 2010 77 minutes Cert. PG

The screenplay for this film was written by the late Jacques Tati, but Tati never made the film in his lifetime. It was left to Sylvain Chomet to make this animated feature film out of Tati’s script. The other, more visible, link to Tati was the creation of the main character Tatischeff, a magician, in the unforgettable image of Tati in Les Vacances de M Hulot, with the same distinctive body language.

The plot of the film, set in the late 1950s/early 1960s, is somewhat thin. Tatischeff is down on his luck with the decline of Music Hall from the impact of TV, pop music and cinema. He leaves Paris to seek work in England and ends up in Scotland. He is befriended by a naive Scottish girl who believes in his magical powers. They both move to a seedy hotel in Edinburgh, whose other occupants are also semi-forgotten variety entertainers.

The pace of the film is gentle and slow, the humour subtle, contrasted with some darker episodes. Whilst the storyline may be weak, the imagery of Scotland and Edinburgh in particular is rich and beautiful. The film had its UK premiere at the 2010 Edinburgh Film Festival, and the audience reaction was one of astonishment at the authenticity and attention to detail displayed in the film. It is a respectful homage to the city as well as a melancholy ode to the fading of Music Hall as a form of popular entertainment.

The Illusionist is a complete contrast to Chomet’s earlier work Belleville Rendezvous, which was a wonderfully laugh out loud animation, replete with hilarious cartoon stereotype characters. What the two works do have in common, however, is a sumptuous standard of artistry and animation second to none. The animation techniques are deliberately pre-computer. Chomet scoured the world for artists and animators skilled in traditional methods that have been overtaken by computer-based techniques.

Tatischeff – Jean-Claude Donda
Alice – Eilidh Rankin
additional voices – Paul Bandey, Tom Urie, Duncan MacNeil, Raymond Mearns, James T Muir

Director – Sylvain Chomet
Screenplay – Jacques Tati, adapted by Sylvain Chomet
Animation – Nicolas Debray, Paul Dutton and about 40 others !
Original Music Sylvain Chomet
Producers Bob Last, Sally Chomet

“Some cities become the ghosts of the movies that immortalised them. When we visit, we see their romance through the prism of the screen. Vienna in The Third Man. Rome in Roman Holiday. Venice in Don’t Look Now. New York in Manhattan. To this list we can now add Edinburgh in The Illusionist, Sylvain Chomet’s beautiful and melancholy portrait of a man out of time, which also happens to be a valentine to Scotland’s capital.” Anthony Quinn, The Independent

“Yet while his film is romantic and nostalgic, Chomet avoids perpetrating tartan tweeness by underscoring it with an air of melancholy arising from the story about the rapidly disappearing world of vaudeville. That’s something to which his old-fashioned animation style and unwavering belief in visual rather than dialogue-led storytelling is ideally suited… ” Alistair Harkness, The Scotsman


“I thought it was a lovely film – really good animation and a heartfelt human story.”

“A Gothic view of British (and Scottish) life and customs. A dark undertone.”

“Amazing graphics for the feature film.”

“Quite enjoyed it, but not sure would have as much if it had been set anywhere but Edinburgh (being from there). Certainly made a pleasant change from a normal film, but needed a lot of concentration at times to figure out what was going on (or was that just me?)”

“Beautifully done, delightful, but still a bit slight.”

The Illusionist was good animation but not much of a plot.”

“Beautifully made, but somewhat sad. A very gentle observation of the people in show business as it was.”

“A very gentle and enjoyable evening’s entertainment”

“Beautiful, particularly landscapes, but more a series of sketches than a fully rounded story.”

“Tati done with an animated accent à la Sylvain Chomet. Richard’s talk gave an interesting debate into how the film was made in that manner … although animation academics may disagree about the ‘realist’ approach for the production.”

“Short on narrative, long on charm”

“Good to show both together. Worth seeing several times for its emotion, poignancy and technique.”

“Astounding animation – Japanese Manga, Simplicissimus, Posie … They must surely have had some live rushes of Tati to copy his movements. So much loving detail!”

“Intriguing film”

“Fantastic animation, but the storyline was disjointed. Animation up to the standard of Abingdon’s own animator – Geoff Dunbar.”

“A real delight. Repeated viewings necessary to take in all the background details, and references to other animated films eg Mr Magoo (in the cinema).”

“Fascinating scenery and animation”


“Took me back to my younger days”

“Certainly punched above its weight. Beautiful and quite touching.”

“Enjoyed both films and found they were well matched. Thanks”

“Très joli”


“I loved the main character of the short film, but it was a bit too slapstick for my taste.”

“Not bad but too slapsticky for my taste.”


Soigne ton Gauche was an entertaining sample of Tati’s screen presence”

“A bit wallowing in nostalgia even though: nice to see the young Tati.”


A:25.5, B:17.5, C:6, D:0, E:0 to give 85%