'Illusionist' receives warm reception at event

EDINBURGH — Local hearts beat strong in Edinburgh on Wednesday as this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival opened with an affectionate reception to Sylvain Chomet’s “The Illusionist.”

The toon, a melancholic love song for the city, preemed at the Festival Theatre, Scotland’s largest performance hall and kick started another year of the fest.

Upon introducing Chomet’s pic, the fest’s artistic director Hannah McGill said: “I honestly don’t know when there’s been an opening night film that’s had this much local emphasis to it.”

Toon, which is set in the 1950s and based on an unmade script by Jacques Tati, sees an ageing Parisian magician travel to a Scottish island in an attempt to further his career. After meeting a young Scottish girl, he travels to Edinburgh whereby auds are given detailed animated scenes of the city.

French helmer Chomet, who spent five years making the pic, said EIFF was “better than Cannes” for him.

The scale of the gala was a grand one, themed on old school magic. Patron Sean Connery and Patrick Stewart, chairman of this year’s Michael Powell Award, both hit the red carpet, which boasted an array of stilt walkers and showgirls in addition to a brass band.

“Ugly Betty’s” America Ferrera and former Bond girl Britt Ekland brought some international flavor to the evening. Ferrera’s pic “The Dry Land” is screening at the fest while Ekland sits on the fest’s Michael Powell jury.

In case auds wondered about the future tone of the fest, which has increasingly become known for supporting new talent, chairman Iain Smith said the fest was “going from strength to strength”.

“We’re securing and building our platform with programming that offers something for everyone,” he said. “It’s a local event with international reach.”

This year’s EIFF, which runs until June 27, will showcase 111 new feature films, 82 of which are the work of first- or second-time filmmakers. Some of its 22 world preems include Paul Andrew Williams’ “Cherry Tree Lane,” Nick Moran’s “The Kid” and fest closer “Third Star” helmed by Hattie Dalton.

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