johnlink ranks THE ILLUSIONIST (2006)

There is a three-pack of flicks I’ve been meaning to get to which all came out around the same time. I hope to get to all three. The first was THE ILLUSIONIST and the other two are THE FOUNTAIN and THE PRESTIGE. Embarrassed to have not seen any of them. Oh, and this article will have some *SPOILERS* so avoid reading this if you don’t want anything spoiled.

I watched THE ILLUSIONIST (2006) on 1.28.10. It was my first viewing of the film. TRAILER HERE

This film marked Neil Burger’s first decently budgeted film. I came away impressed, though sometimes annoyed, with his style. I loved that he attempted to give this film an early motion picture feel. The credits shake, the lights in the exteriors (especially in the distant flashbacks) flicker madly (this must have been a projectionist’s nightmare when it was in theaters) and the open and close iris spots recall Chaplin or Eisenstein or Griffith. He even shot the film in a more squared aspect ratio, framing the actors only slightly with his European backgrounds. The last of those things annoyed me greatly. Sure it is nice to call back old school film, but the widescreen picture creates much more depth than the standard ratio (and yes, he went with a slight widescreen). There were many exteriors I felt cheated out of, and several scenes which could have showcased the cinematography with greater effect. Basically, I felt like the ideas were there, but the execution didn’t always work to its desired effect.

His script is inconsistent. Though it finishes strong, some of the early dialogue is contrived or cliche. He’s lucky he had Paul Giamatti and Ed Norton to perform it. I think part of the reason the young man scenes work with less effect is because a less experienced actor couldn’t make the dialogue fly.

I had no idea this was a twist movie, so the end caught me off guard. I suspected that something might be up, but didn’t foresee the ah-ha moment. I’m glad I knew very little about this movie going in. Had I known there was a turn, I would have seen it coming a mile away, because there is really nothing else it could be. That said, I’m not sure this one makes me want to rewatch it. Because a lot of the hints were outside of what we saw as an audience, and were instead edited into the climax, this didn’t give me the feeling THE USUAL SUSPECTS did, where I needed to see it again right away.

The magic acts were fun. And because they were actually tricks (at least some of them were), I wish that the shows hadn’t been so CGI heavy. Because of the drawn matted backdrops, the CGI felt even more artificial. I would have liked to have seen a team really create some of those tricks. Specifically, I’m thinking of the orange tree moment.

This was a fun film, basically thanks to Norton, Giamatti, and Rufus Sewell. Without those three this would have been a rather pedestrian offering, but they elevated (or should I say, levitated) it to a better place.



5+7+8+4+0= 24


~ by johnlink00 on January 27, 2010.

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