Saturday, November 29, 2008


One of my favorite film moments takes place during the opening titles of the Gilles Adrian scripted French film "Delicatessan". As the camera wends its way through the garbage produced by the small apartment building that is the story's setting, it finds one piece of detritus or another to match each of the film's craft credits. Discarded script pages identify the Screenwriter, a rusty camera acknowledges the Cinematographer and a broken phonograph record is imprinted with the name of the Composer.

And the Producer's name -- is reflected in a smoky mirror.

Yeah, that's producing all right. Most of the time, even those of us who do it aren't sure exactly what we did to make a project happen. Somewhere along the way, somebody was moved by an impassioned argument that could easily have been interpreted as just so much bullshit -- and frankly, might have been just that.

The producer cajoles, massages or wills the pieces he needs into reality, gaining strength and conviction as each part of the machine falls into place, never admitting how precarious the whole thing remains all the way through shooting and well past the delivery of the final cut.

In many ways, all movie magic is an extension of the magic producers have to accomplish to allow the rest of the process to happen.

Which might be why I'm such a big fan of Magicians. Even when I know how the tricks are done, I'm still enthralled by the process, often getting as much enjoyment out of simply watching others being entranced by a Magician's skills.

One who never ceases to amaze me, however, is actor and magician extraordinaire Ricky Jay; whose incredible knowledge of the history and inner workings of his craft has inspired and influenced the work of cinema and TV icons like David Mamet, David Milch and Christopher Nolan.

Jay doesn't just "do" magic, he creates an entire world, drawing you into stories, anecdotes and possibilities that may or may not be fictional. Ultimately, you don't care, you're just caught up in the tale he's weaving and where it might lead.

Gee -- no wonder writers make the best producers...

...and producers rival the best magicians...

......unless the Magician is Ricky Jay...

So sit back. Prepare to be amazed. And enjoy your Sunday.


Racicot said...

That's so frustrating. I want to punch a hundred smoky mirrors into a thousand pieces...

In Whistler I watched as a Magician 'attempted' the same Three Ball Trick where we - the Audience - could see every plant he made. Off of everyone's guffaws, he admitted he wasn't very good at 'this one' and upon collecting his cups, revealed three fat Oranges underneath the cups. We dropped our jaws.

Hi Jim, I have a Cinemafantastique Mag here with an interview with you about Friday 13th series. Good stuff. Sounds like you guys were busy on that series.

wcdixon said...

Ricky Jay is so cool.