French animator Sylvain Chomet won a lot of fans with his resolutely charming The Triplets of Belleville eight years ago. His follow up is based on an unproduced, late 1950s script by the master French comedian and filmmaker Jacques Tati (Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday; Jour de Fete).
An aging French conjuror, finding himself out of step in the raucous new rock‘n’roll era, travels to the UK – initially London – in search of an audience. In a coastal Scotland village he befriends a teenage girl who believes his tricks are genuine magic and follows him to Edinburgh, where they share digs in a boarding house populated by fellow vaudevillians and undergo a series of adventures.
The film is best thought of as a fond homage to Tati from a sympathetic admirer rather than a literal attempt at realising his intentions (the original script took place largely in Prague and, of course, Tati never worked in animation). In this it succeeds exquisitely, capturing the spirit and feel of Tati’s understated, silent-era-inspired comedy, with its digs at the modern world, yet reinterpreting in the light of the animator’s distinctively stylised vision. In a film bathed in visual felicities, Edinburgh has never looked lovelier.