' ' Cinema Romantico: The Prestige

Friday, October 20, 2006

The Prestige

George Costanza once said, "Sometimes in life the gods smile upon you, my friends." Indeed they do for no more than an hour after I posted my blog entry yesterday afternoon wondering how I would see all these great movie this weekend I was advised by my friend Matt (The Best Cinematographer in America, Puerto Rico and Manitoba) Karki that he had possession of a ticket to a special advance screening of "The Prestige". And so the weekend dreams are made of kicked off before the weekend had technically even started.

"The Prestige" opens with a voice-over informing us of the three parts involved in a magic trick. The Pledge is the magician showing the audience something with which they are familiar. The Turn is the magician taking that familiar something and making it extraordinary. The Prestige is when the magician takes that something extraordinary and brings it back.

Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale star as magicians Angier and Barden - respectively - who grow up apprenticing under Michael Caine, only to turn on each other after a tragic mishap during a trick onstage. They both begin an individual act. Barden is the more skilled magician but Angier is much more adept at the theatrics of the show. At first their tricks go awry, primarily on account of the other rival. But then Barden invents a dazzling illusion called The Transported Man. Angier calls it the best trick he's ever seen and steals it for his own act, re-naming it The New Transported Man. But he knows Barden does it better and wants to know how.

Into this mess wades Scarlett Johansson's voluptuous assistant. She appears to have no purpose other than to supply the obligatory pawn in the requisite love triangle. But no matter.

The real goods of the movie lie in the escalating competition between Barden and Angier. It is a tale of obsession. Angier wants so badly to outdo Barden that he travels to see a famed and reclusive scientist (played by someone who you wouldn't think of to portray the role but is so perfect for it you'll be upset at yourself for not having thought of it) in hopes of gaining something that goes beyond a magician's illusion and into the realm of real magic.

Sometimes a movie leaves you oddly detached. I've been thinking all day about what I wanted to say in regards to the film. And, quite frankly, I don't really want to say anything. I admire the way it was made. And its performances. But while I also admire a real magician's ability to fool me and entertain me to a degree, I don't really ever feel anything beyond that. "The Prestige", much like any magic show, has considerable craft. It just doesn't have much emotion.

1 comment:

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