Saturday, March 17, 2007

The Prestige

Last year two films came out about competing magicians in the 1800's. How strange is that? We obviously watched the one above tonight. Annoyingly because we both shuffle the Netflix list we are getting The Illusionist tomorrow. I really didn't plan to watch them back to back. That said, this movie blew my socks off. Unfortunately, it's like Children of Men. I don't know how to talk about it without spoilers. It is a slow, beautiful, horrifying movie, wandering through different times fluidly and effortlessly as in Christopher Nolan's earlier Memento. And like Memento, it explores the problems with obsession and manipulation (I like finding through lines in director's work). Like Memento the time twists are essential to the response of the audience. They are not arbitrary or unnecessary. I know that it's possible to watch Memento "in order" but I cannot think that the impact would be the same. I will say this: this film and it's final twist frightened me more than any film I can think of in recent memory without gore or monsters (except the human one). I actually felt sick afterwards. What it reminded me of most strongly was reading one of the "greats" of horror, M.R. James or Lord Dunsany, perhaps Lovecraft, but Lovecraft slides into BEM's (Bug Eyed Monsters) too much while James and Dunsany are masters at the art of suggestion.

What I can say is that the acting is superb. I've been a fan of Christian Bale since Empire of the Sun but I believe he was almost overshadowed by Hugh Jackman in this. Jackman's darkness is subtle but profound. I'm not giving anything away by saying that he plays a double role brilliantly. Supporting cast of Michael Caine, Andy Serkis and David Bowie (as Tesla?). I even thought Scarlett Johannsson was tolerable in this. This one will stay with me for a long time. I cannot think that The Illusionist will compare.


YS said...

Another Fan of The Prestige!

I really liked the film. Although the ending didn't quite get me as it did you.

It had a little too much of the Scooby Doo-let-us-outline-everything-for-you feel to it in that last scene.

The concept was great and the structure of the piece was great, but as the ending unfolded I was whispering, "No, No, No, you were so close."

Probably worked better in the novel.

With regards to The Illusionist, I would agree with Stanley Kauffman: There isn't much beyond a great story in the The Illusionist, but sometimes that is all you need.

Novel said...

I'm definitely curious about the novel as well. I can understand what you mean about the ending, but it still worked for me. At what point did you start to think it was going wrong?