Saturday, September 3, 2011

Fantastic Films: The Illusionist (2006 Version)

Edward Norton is an actor that can do just about anything. At one moment, he is playing the Incredible Hulk, this angry muscular creature that smashes his way through the day. The next moment, he is a laid back illusionist who performs his incredible illusions for tons of people. Seeing "The Illusionist" for the first time, it was an incredible experience that forced me to see it a second time. Seeing it a second time, you relive the experience all over again.

While I simply wrote about three films I wanted to see later in the year for last year, I finally returned to the regular format of simply writing about a fantastic film for this month. "The Illusionist" rings a bell as being one of those great movies that not too many people talk about. It didn't get much recognition at the Academy Awards, with the exception of Dick Pope winning an award for "Best Cinematography." You had Edward Norton, Paul Giamatti, Jessica Biel, and Rufus Sewell, all of which played excellent parts in the film. If you're looking for that hidden cinema gem that not too many people talk about, "The Illusionist" is one you should check out.

Edward Norton plays Eisenheim the Illusionist, who's love for illusions began after he came into contact with a traveling magician. Throughout the film, he holds magic shows in Vienna, Austria-Hungary (as this is what the country was called back in the time the story was set). Throughout the film, he performs various tricks, one of which catches the attention of Chief Inspector Uhl, played by Paul Giamatti. This trick happens to be about an orange tree and how Eisenheim can split the orange with a simple wave. Then, he does the common trick of pulling an orange from behind the inspector's ear. Giamatti does such a good job playing a gruff and serious inspector in this picture. Another person that has their attention caught by Eisenheim is the Crown Prince Leopold, played by Rufus Sewell. The Crown Prince is the key antagonist in the picture, especially by the way he is the one who is expected to marry his teenage sweetheart of whom he regains feelings for. Sophie is played really well by Jessica Biel. After Sophie is taken out of the picture, Eisenheim begins to switch up his shows and summon spirits that appear on the stage during his shows. While initially he admits that it's just for show, the shows become more and more realistic, making the Crown Prince furious. The way that the film continues is based off of the puppetry that is orchestrated by Eisenheim, and it is so incredible that it will most likely take you two attempts to figure it out. If you pay close attention, you may be one to figure the film out in the first attempt.

"The Illusionist" takes a devoted cinema fanatic, someone with a good eye to detail, someone who likes to figure things out, or all of the above to dissect and enjoy the film. The arrangement to this film is so good that you're going to be in for such a ride. Future illusionists should surely check this film out, as there are brilliant illusions that would make for such brilliant shows. I wrote previously that illusionists need to come up with unique material that makes them stand out in the crowd. In this film, Eisenheim is one of those illusionists that does stand out, especially for his time period.

"The Illusionist" is based off of Steven Millhauser's "Eisenheim the Illusionist," which is a short story that turned into a successful film. I would definitely go looking for the short story, as it really made the foundation for such an intriguing film. There was also a 2010 animated film with the same name, but this is a different film. I have yet to watch the 2010 European film, which has a different story. As for the "The Illusionist" released in 2006 and starring Edward Norton, this film holds a stroke of cinema genius.

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