Monday, April 14, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay (2013) ***½

NR, 88 min.
Director: Molly Bernstein
Narrator: Dick Cavett
Featuring: Ricky Jay

I haven’t really been fascinated by magic since I was a kid. I remember being extremely fascinated as a child, however. It seems anytime there was a magic special on TV, I was sitting in front of it. That was when the networks used to put things like magic specials on TV. I’m not sure just what it was that disinterested me in magic. I think it was the discovery that it truly was a trick. I think I wanted magic to be real. Once I knew it wasn’t, I looked for magic in different places.

I came to know of Ricky Jay through my obsession with movies. He was a favorite actor of David Mamet and later showed up in Paul Thomas Anderson’s movies as well. I only came to realize that he was already famous for being a magician after I came to know his acting, which wasn’t extremely variant, but almost always involved some form of slight of hand or trick of his tale. Watching “Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay” I realize that I had seen him many times on television as a child. And hearing his stories and seeing his magic, which is at such a masterful level it doesn’t matter that it’s a trick, I find myself fascinated by magic all over again.

The movie is a history lesson of sorts in the way it features slight of hand artists all the way back to the vaudevillian period. Jay cites his grandfather as his biggest influence, who was never a professional magician, but made sure he trained with the best in the business because it was of great interest to him. He shows us a great deal of rare footage of these early masters plying their arts, and it becomes apparent that these close up magicians are far more fascinating than the big event types, like David Blaine or even David Copperfield. I’d like to see one of Jay’s stage shows now and see if I can spot the trick. It’s magic again, because he’s convinced me I never will.

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