and why it's pathetic that a film called The Illusionist dealt with none of them.
see? i made a mean joke! i'm funny and mean!
i remember a few months ago watching the shorts for The Prestige and The Illusionist at about the same time. thinking; ooh! competing movies about old-skool magicians dabbling in devilry! snap!
both looked spooky and weird and had good casts. i watched The Prestige a while ago and blogged about it. i blogged because it made me think and while i did have some serious criticisms of the plot, it was definitely worth watching. stylistically interesting, creative, and more full of spook than the cafeteria at langley. i criticised that because it was so close to being astoundingly great that i regretted the missed opportunity. (and because i enjoy complaining.) i am blogging about The Illusionist to save you money.
'because it blew.
this is one of those films that i knew was going to be bad before the opening credits were finished rolling. there were two hints. first, the sepia-tinted flickering-picture type introduction was tired. it made me tired. i actually checked to see how long the film was while the credits ran. then, i noticed something disenheartening: a name i did not recognise listed as writer and director. a guy named neil burger.
sure. i'm not so hip on the movie people any more. there are new folks oozing talent. big breaks happen less often than i'd like, even. but someone unheard of name combined with a title sequence that had me checking clocks? bad news, pee wee.
in any case, i watched the whole thing. why? i'm a masochist i guess.
in my whole life i've walked out of two films. one was Revenge of the Nerds and that is because i went with my parents and they made us leave after the twenty-eleventh set of breasts were bobbled before my youthful gaze. the second was Speechless with Michael Keaton and Geena Davis. i went with a date, actually the woman who T.A.ed my very last university class. we walked out -- and i'm not exaggerating -- before the opening credits were finished.
it went like this. we got up, walked out to the ticket booth and said;
us: we'd like our money back. this movie sucks.
guy: i know. here. sorry.
so i watched all of The Illusionist. it hurt. it hurts to watch good actors act themselves in little tiny circles. edward norton is a good actor. paul giamatti is a good actor. but... it was one of those films where everything that happened was utterly predictable. each scene accompanied by your internal monologue going, "well of course."
it reminded me of Mulholland Falls, a film during which i said out loud, "oh. this is the scene where he eats spaghetti and then gets shot," as he was served spaghetti and then got shot.
The Illusionist is a non-mysterious mystery. at the end, when the paul giamatti character figures out exactly how he's been manipulated through a series of events that have dramatically altered the history of austria? he's delighted and amused.
at least one of us was.
they should have put that on the movie poster:
Delightful and amusing! So labyrinthine and mysterious I'm still puzzling over it!
-Paul Giamatti as Chief Inspector Uhl (scripted)
the good news is that watching this film made me really appreciate directorial skill. telling the story isn't enough. you have to do so with style and subtlety.