a pro script reader ponders movies, reading, writing and the occasional personal flashback

Sunday, January 14, 2007

The Illusionist (No Spoilers)

I've always had a fascination with magic. As a kid I noodled around with those cheap magic kits, playing with the cups and balls and decks of cards, though I never had the dexterity or the patience to get really good at it.

When I lived in Manhattan, I used to go see Penn and Teller perform, and try to figure out how they did their tricks. The fun thing about their show is that they demonstrate how they do about one-third of the tricks, I could figure out another third, but the last third had me baffled. And it all worked.

Despite this, somehow I missed both The Illusionist and The Prestige in theaters, though I finally just caught up with The Illusionist on DVD. It does a lot of things very well, chiefly in its handling of the allure of magic -- both Paul Giamatti's and Rufus Sewell's characters are obsessed/intrigued by how magician Edward Norton does his tricks. Writer-director Neil Burger does a good job filtering a lot of the story through the perspective of Giamatti, a police inspector investigating Norton's character, whose awareness of the mysteries of what is happening and what isn't pretty closely mirrors the audience.

The tricks here are well-done as well, a string of intriguing illusions that both flesh out the story as well as driving it on certain levels; one waits in anticipation to see what the next trick will be.

The film isn't perfect. The actors' odd European accents are distracting at times, while Norton's accent ebbs and flows. Norton's character is also a bit too much of a cipher at the heart of the tale; there aren't enough real depths to his character. But given the nature of the story, this still sort of works; he's a magician, and we're not supposed to know all his secrets.

All-in-all, worth seeing.

There's also a contest for people to submit videos of magic tricks, if anyone has any ideas in that arena.


At 10:01 PM, Blogger just me said...

one time as a kid, I got this magic kit, and was SINCERELY pissed when I realized there was a manual.

I "magic" are plastic things you have to read a MANUAL to work?

..that was the end of my magic career.

At 12:34 AM, Anonymous chris said...

Agreed. Pretty good. Script probably a little better than the performances. Used to be a magician myself, mainly on cruise ships. I wasn't terribly good at it, used it mainly for comedy (Penn and Teller are THE SHIT, imo), but I DO know how most of ths stuff's done (so shoot me an email on the remaining mysteries).

Though I couldn't tell you how that sword trick's done...I don't think it's historically accurate (ie, that's movie magic, not magic-magic).

Also: CS did a good podcast on this one, probably still in their itunes listen, from the producers, but they're the guys who wrote Rounders.

At 9:18 PM, Blogger Formerly, The Dude Spoke said...

I was quite enjoying this film until the last five minutes, when it was almost shot for shot of another recent movie. Completely ruined the film. But the actors were good, and it was gorgeously shot.

Still, I find The Prestige to be a better film. That one kind of messes with your head a little bit.

At 9:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that "The Prestige" was the best film for 2006.

check it out dude!




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