The Illusionist is a film in the genus of The Prestige and Scoop — a thriller set in the world of stage magic. Quite why these films are like buses at the moment, I don’t know, but a brief trip to the cinema was called for last night, and off we when to see The Illusionist.
Based on a short story (always a good start), the film is set in fin de siecle Vienna and concerns our hero, a talented magician called Eisenheim, as he returns to the city of his youth in the hope of wooing his once-sweetheart, Countess Sophie von Teschen from the dastardly Crown Prince Leopold.
This is one of those films that, ultimately, did not work for me, but bursts with enough sincerity and talent to make the movie-going experience a rewarding one. Eisenheim is brilliantly played by Edward Norton. His opponent’s factor, the Chief Inspector, is given life by a wonderful performance from Paul Giamitti. But both these are blown off the screen by Rufus Sewell’s Crown Prince Leopold — he chews the decor, spits it out, and stamps on the pieces. He even manages to ‘twist his moustache in villainy’. Wonderfully filmed too, by Dick Pope, and Philip Glass supplies the usual ‘skipping needle’ score.
Anyway, just a quick review to share this with you. If you get a chance to see it, you might like it. Not a lot. But you might like it.
EDIT: My girlfriend has got terribly confused by that last link. Just to be clear — and ruin the mystery — ‘not a lot’ is the catchphrase of Paul Daniels, Britain’s answer to David Copperfield. He was a regular fixture on Saturday night telly in the 1980s, and I remember getting the Paul Daniels magic box for Christmas in 1989 or so. On a related note, can anyone explain to me the point of that bit of rope where one end was stiff? Tim, I’m looking at you.