The Illusionist, Neil Burger (2006)

Sort of a Things Change meets Immortal Beloved. Engaging if somewhat breathy romance, set in decadent fin de siècle Vienna, about a upstairs/downstairs romance between a duchess set to marry a mean prince and a cabinet maker’s son turned famous magician. The art direction and cinematography are cloying (acres of red velvet draperies, gallons of honey-colored light from the gas lamps, dozens of grainy faux-antique shots and transitions), the acting is dull (though I must say, I’ve been asking people for a long time who the heck Jessica Biel is, and now I know), but the script has some tricks up its sleeve (heh heh). Also, the film is quite educational. We learn that the First World War could have been avoided if Archduke Franz Ferdinand had been tricked into committing suicide by Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg and her magician boyfriend, thereby depriving Gavrilo Princip of the opportunity to assassinate him. We also learn that the Chinese are inscrutable and move like cats, and that Austrians speak with an English accent.


  1. Thanks for the counsel. Unfortunately I think I have to suffer through Lions for Lambs, as I’ve a morbid interest in how Hollywood’s digesting the so-called “war on terror.” I’ll root around in the medicine chest for some old Percocet first, though.

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