Saturday, November 04, 2006

Six Magicians

What is it about movies featuring duelling magicians, eh? You wait years and years for even a hint of one and then three come along at once.

Three films about duelling magicians, all in a 12 month period. Leastly, I suppose, there's The Prestige from Christopher Nolan, starring Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale. Yawn. I'm prepared to bet you're overfamiliar with that one already - and it hasn't even been released to most of the world yet.

Just beating The Prestige into cinemas, in the US at least, was The Illusionist with Paul Giamatti and Edward Norton. This one's considerably more interesting - which isn't surprising as it comes from the director of Interview With The Assassin, not Insomnia or Batman Begins. Of course, The Illusionist did fare rather less well at the American box office.

And the third film? Well, I don't think it has much chance of playing cinemas in the US at all, but in the UK, we can expect it in the late srping or summer. It's called Magicians, simply enough, and it stars David Mitchell and Robert Webb. They're comedians, if you don't know, and are probably most famous for the sitcom Peep Show which was written by Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain who - neatly - also wrote the screenplay for Magicians. It's a small world/circle jerk (delete as applicable).

What truly piqued my interest in Magicians, however, was the directing credit on the film: one Mr. Andrew O'Connor. He might prove to be the perfect choice - and not because he was one of the producers of Peep Show.

My most vivid memories of O'Connor are from his sequence of gameshow hosting jobs, and if you remember him at all, I dare say that'd be where from too. Less likely is that you recall Kappatoo, a children's TV show that he scripted, or his tenure on Copy Cats, a woefully unfunnny celebrity impressions show. Andrew O'Connor started out with some truly evil entries on his CV but lately, thank the heavens, the story couldn't be more different.

For example, he produced Derren Brown's The Heist, easily one of the most exciting shows ever to be broadcast on British TV. In just an hour's running time the audience are witness to the 'psychological illusionist' and mentalist Derren Brown effectively brainwashing a group of middle managers and accountants into pulling off an armed robbery. Under the pretense of an assertiveness training course, Brown used Neuro Linguistic Programming and various related (and seemingly nefarious and shady) psychological techniques to imbue his victims with the will to hold up an armoured car with a handgun in the middle of a London street.

The gun and armoured car were both fake and, unbeknownst to the would-be robbers, everything was being carried out in very carefully controlled conditions, but that didn't make the show any less gripping. Viewers witnessed, through hidden camera footage, 'normal people' deciding to attempt a very serious, dangerous, and unethical act. The Heist was not only a white-knuckle thriller that provided the occaisonal chuckle, it also proved some very disturbing things about human behaviour.

O'Connor also produced most of the rest of Derren Brown's shows for Channel 4 (and contributes to the commentaries on the DVDs), amongst which you'll find countless perfect examples of state-of-the-art magic and illusions. Looking at the film's credits, I think Magicians has a very good chance of being the Raising Arizona to The Prestige's Three Men and a Baby, or The Illusionist's Baby Boom. It's in post-production now so, fingers crossed, I'll be able to pull an online trailer out of the hat before too long.


Anonymous said...

So, when's the British Truman Capote biopic coming out?

Brendon said...

If you mean Infamous - which is that bit more British than Capote - then it opens on January 19th next 2007.

If you don't - because it's still rather American - then I'm afraid there isn't one. Perhaps Andrew O'Connor can be talked into bashing one together after Magicians.