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In defense of "The Illusionist"

From Bob Last, producer of "The Illusionist:

I note you have posted a lengthy comment from Mr McDonald. I hope you and your readers might be interested in my response that follows.

"The Illusionist" is a work of the imagination that seeks only to stand or fall as a film in its own right.

Like any film its strength derives from the script that impels it towards the screen, and in this case we were lucky to have a beautiful starting point, a hitherto unmade script by Jacques Tati. Before work on the film started Sylvain Chomet adapted the script, bringing his own perspective to an at times funny, bittersweet story. It is in the nature of film, and a strength of the cinema, that the journey from script to screen is a long and winding one. Many creative talents have contributed to and interpreted Sylvain Chomet's unique vision for "The Illusionist," all the way adding to and subtracting from the template that the script provided; finally creating a film that is a work of sound and vision many steps away from the words on the page..

Mr. McDonald has outlined an unusual account of part of the life of a cinema great and has proposed some interpretations of the origins and intent of the script; however the truth or otherwise of these assertions and insights is not rightly a matter for the film to concern itself with. Although Sylvain Chomet's artistry has been enriched by the cinematic legacy of Jacques Tati in no sense does this film set out biographical claims, indeed its setting in Edinburgh, Scotland and the Western Isles clearly transposes it even further away from a world that would be familiar to Jacques Tati.

Of course there is a central performance in the film, the character of "The Illusionist" that is an imaged performance by Jacques Tati, the actor, performing a fictional role. This resonates strongly of the man himself but it is the cineaste and performer we are seeing, not the father or husband.

If the success or failure of all cinema were to be held to account against a historical, social or psychological analysis of the underlying state of mind of the script writer then it would cease to exist as a functioning art form. Cinema is underpinned by our embrace of the writer's artifice, our understanding that while the writer may draw upon their inner selves and own experiences they are nonetheless writing for us, the audience.

It is regrettable that Mr McDonald has, in his public comments, attempted to implicate Sylvain Chomet and our film in a past we cannot know and have not set out to define or comment upon.

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