A few years ago, in one of those odd little quirks of Hollywood, two films were released almost in tandem which echoed each other’s themes and settings; this happens now and again, and I wonder if it’s coincidence, and if not which came first, and why this would be thought to be a good idea… Regardless, in 2006 (so long ago?) both The Prestige and The Illusionist came out, each focusing on magic real and stage and its practitioners.
While in the throes of bronchitis a while later, I rented and watched The Prestige and The Illusionist together. I am now able to find it funny that a passing remark on TBWSRN about how much more I liked The Prestige led to one of the ugliest episodes I witnessed on the board – something that could have been avoided by more thought put into any number of posts, including a couple of mine – though I still don’t think I was entirely in the wrong …
Anyway. What I said at the time – which seemed to be part of why I ticked off a few people – was that I didn’t much care for The Illusionist. I thought it was fascinating, and beautiful, but it left me cold. The acting – from a cast headed by Edward Norton as Eisenheim (the Illusionist), Paul Giametti, Jessica Biel, and Rufus Sewell) was fine (in the better sense of the word), the story was good, but I didn’t much care what happened to the Illusionist, and I found the extreme passion he had for his lady a little hard to swallow given the almost entire lack of passion he showed everywhere else. It was a clever film, and I felt like I should have seen the ending coming (I figured part of it out, but not all), but it seemed a little too clever for its own good: it archly declined to explain anything at all, circling around its own myths, and ended up coming off as more fantasy than it seemed to be intending to. It reminded me strongly of Big Fish, without the sense of fun that film had.
I would like to see it again – and at one time I wanted even more to see The Prestige again, but scars from the flamings made it less desirable. It’s been several years now, though, so maybe one day soon I can watch them both sometime this year, and see if I still feel the same.