Tuesday evening marked the start of the EIFF proceedings for the year, with all the flounce and fanciness of the Gala Opening Night. My trusty co-blogger, Ben, and I did not attend (see 9 to 5 job), but while killing time until the 21:45 showing of The Illusionist, we hopped over to Teviot to check out the party vibe.

When we got there, the first thing we saw was a girl hula hooping a big ring of fire and some lights. The Horndog Brass Band, an Edinburgh based eight-piece band, were entertaining the large queue of (quite bored looking) Gala guests, and doing a mighty fine job of it too. They are most known for playing on several tracks of Amanda Palmer’s solo album ‘Who Killed Amanda Palmer?’, but play regularly in and around Edinburgh, especially during the Fringe.

The guests filed in, and soon, all that was left was one scooting around on a popcorn box shaped segway, which is officially the coolest thing I have seen ever. Check it out:

How awesome is that?

After learning that no, I could not have a go, we headed over to the Festival Theatre for film of the evening: The Illusionist, directed by Sylvain Chomet. I’ll keep this short, as Ben has already covered the movie, but I do have a few things I’d like to mention.

First, I really did enjoy it. It was everything the reviews promised; beautiful, intricate, delightful and devastatingly melancholy.

However, it was not without its weaknesses. The film has been criticised as not having much of a plot, and I did feel this at times. Given that The Illusionist is an animated rendering of Jacques Tati’s unrealised screenplay, it is unsurprising that plot took a back seat. Tati’s films were never big on action/ Most notably, Playtime, had barely any story at all, with Tati instead choosing to focus on a portrait of a city; Paris.

Chomet uses Tati as a springboard for his creative vision. He paints a portrait of a city that is as almost as grand as the set of Playtime itself, but all this visual grandeur, when combined with Chomet’s iconic lack of dialogue, falls short.

However, there are little moments throughout the film that are truly a delight. I laughed like a little kid every time the magician’s rabbit made an appearance, and also whenever one of Chomet’s gorgeously animated women made an appearance. Keep an eye out for the French singer in the opening scene, and the opera singer at the British garden party. Their movements and expressions enrich the film, and this pulls The Illusionist back from the breach of dull.

After thinking about it for a while, I have decided that maybe it is hard to make an animated film that comments on an era, where life runs as slowly as life does and action takes a back seat, and this is possibly because of the medium itself. Life begets life, and though Chomet’s characters are lifelike down to the tiniest quirk, animation doesn’t capture the rolling atmospheric style of a filmmaker like Tati.

Though The Illusionist was enjoyable and had me close to tears by the end, he animated format restricts this film from doing what Tati set out to do with it.