Saturday, August 26, 2006

Movie Review - The Illusionist


The Illusionist is the perfect late summer movie. It's mellow and warm and golden-colored, like rich summer days turning overripe to autumn. It stars Edward Norton and Paul Giamatti, which is reason enough for anyone to see it. It's set in fin-de-siecle Vienna, which is reason enough for me to see it. And it's the kind of engrossing, classic fairy-tale like love story that all fans of romance would enjoy, which is reason enough for you to see it.

Edward Abramowitz was the son of a cabinet maker who began studying magic after a chance encounter with a traveling magician. As a teenager, he befriended Sophie von Tesschen, the daughter of a local nobleman. At their secret meetings, he would show her his magic and they would plot to run away together to the Orient. Then her family separates them.

Fifteen years later, Edward appears in Vienna as Eisenheim the Illusionist and takes the city by storm. Even Crown Prince Leopold attends one of his performances, at which he offers up his lovely almost-fiancee as Eisenheim's assistant. The woman in question is of course none other than Sophie.

After the lovers reunite, they begin a game in which they seek to be together, the Prince seeks to keep Sophie for his own and debunk Eisenheim's magic act, and the Prince's right hand man, Chief Inspector Uhl, seeks to untangle and increasingly complicated web of illusion, reality, love, politics and violence.

The cinematography is breathtaking. The director uses techniques from the early days of cinema, like irises and slow dissolves, to create a movie that's feels more like an artifact from 1900 than a mere period piece. The acting is uniformly good, with Norton's quiet intensity and Giamatti's slightly fussy, detached Inspector the two stand-outs. And the love story captivates like a fairy-tale -- it's heavy on mood, light on plot, and the characters are as familiar as archetypes from a legend.

The Illusionist is in limited release, but should be expanding to more theaters soon. If you get the chance to see it on the big screen, you'll be well rewarded.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi guys -

Comment completely unrelated to "The Illusionist" (alhtough I'm very excited to see it), but I wanted a chance to thank you for tuning me into "Veronica Mars." I didn't know much about it and have absolutely fallen in love with the show on DVD, all thanks to your recommendation! Can't wait for the next season -

Rachel

ames said...

I was interested in this based on the cast alone. I haven't even seen a trailer for this movie. I soooo want to see it now. Good stuff!

theflitgirl said...

Rachel...I think I love you.

But seriously, you're sixth or seventh person I've introduced to the show only to have them become a regular, weekly viewer. Now you have to go introduce some people to the wonders of Veronica (and Logan...)

Anonymous said...

Haha! Thanks for the love, Flitgirl! I'm off to spread the word!

Rachel

Kate D. said...

SQUEE! This is playing in Ballard. I'm so excited... but I'm also worried that it may not be playing anymore by the time I can actually go see it.

Ugh. Having a life sucks. As does the quick turnover rate of movies these days. (Though I'm sure "Illusionist" is MUCH higher quality than, say, "MI:3," one can only hope that audiences give it the credit it deserves...)