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There are a number of excellent movies that get undeserved average
ratings because the number of voters are small and a few people who
lack sensitivity just don't get it and give a superb movie like this an
First of all, having read the book by Isaac Bashevis Singer, this movie has succeeded, in my opinion, in capturing the essence of the book. This is a rare achievement, most movies fail to do justice to the books they are based on. This is not to say that the film has not had to make changes to the story, but that this movie has successfully translated the story into the cinematic realm.
The movie has at least one scene that is even more powerful than the way it is depicted in the book. I don't think I'll ever forget the emotional impact this scene made on me (I don't want to spoil it for anyone who has not yet seen this movie).
Second, this is such a great movie that it stands on its own. You need not have read the book beforehand. I saw the movie before I read the book and I firmly believe both are masterful. It is one of the finest movies I have been lucky enough to have seen in a movie theater (I just hope that the DVD version has not been cut too much).
Finally as some other reviewers have pointed out, Alan Arkin and all of the entire cast have done a superb job in bringing their roles to life. The directing, costumes, music, are all realized with masterful skill and elegance.
Forget about the philistine reviews and see this hard to find movie -chances are you will not be sorry.
saw this movie over 25years ago in a 2nd run house in South Florida. I
have never forgotten Alan Arkins acting or the ending.
Following the path of a megalomaniac hypnotic womanizing magician through the lost worlds of 19th century Poland , the film gripped me and held me from the beginning.
Arkins work deserved greater distribution but those were the days when Golan and Globus were turning out .films at such a rapid clip that few got the attention they deserved.. See it and be entranced you are pulled toward the impending destruction or dissolution of this dark character .
Respectfully, R J Liff
Arkin spares nothing of himself in what I consider one of his finest roles. The story is both incredibly painful and liberating (the Bladerunner writer must have read this story by Singer). This movie is not for the emotionally faint of heart, but it is so incredibly honest there are great rewards. For those studying translating literature to film, I would suggest this (as well as the Bill Murray version of The Razor's Edge) as worthy case studies. Also, for a period piece, The Magician of Lublin exposes an interesting time in Europe, both for the sexual mores of the time and the existent seeds of anti-Semitism that served as a precursor to the Twentieth Century.
My one and only viewing of this masterpiece was at a art-house theater in Royal Oak Mi. in 1979 and to this day I can tell you the beginning , middle and end. What does that tell you ?. This movie is a work of art as no other. Alan Arkin was truly magnificent. This movie should of gained a few awards and to be honest I'm not sure if it did or didn't. At least give credit where credit is do. The Magician Of Lubin is by all means is in a category of classics that were overlooked. I would love if Hollywood made more types of films like this and The Search with Montgomery Cliff. If any body has any information on the release of this title on DVD, Please post reply.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
An adaptation of a novel by Isaac Bashevis Singer, this is a nearly forgotten film despite a remarkable performance by Alan Arkin and outstanding direction by none other than action schlockmeister Menahem Golan. Arkin is a magician in Poland circa 1901 whose womanizing ways catch up with him in the most horrifying ways. The troubled (and troublesome) women in his life include Valerie Perrine, Shelley Winters, Maia Danziger, and Louise Fletcher. They're all exceptional, particularly Danziger as Arkin's tragic assistant. Maurice Jarre's music score is riveting and the cinematography by David Gurfinkel is excellent. The ending is quite shocking.
I am a Louise Fletcher fan and saw this film in that context. While I
have not read Isaac Beshevis Singer's novel, I must say that this film
lacks the dramatic punch one would expect from a Pulitzer Prize winner.
Even with decent sets and costumes as well as a good cast, this story
of a womanizing illusionist (Alan Arkin) lying his way through turn of
the Century Poland is pretty underwhelming. Louise is top-notch, giving
the film's most powerful dramatic performance, but it becomes lost in a
film that never draws you in.
Valerie Perrine also has some solid scenes, while Shelly Winters overplays the part of Perrine's psycho mother to campy perfection. In the end however, the big climax comes off as more of an anti-climax, as by then you don't really care what happens. I gave it an IMDb '6', mostly for the acting turns by Fletcher, Perrine and Winters (whose climatic scene with Arkin must be seen to be believed).
In 1978 the movie's company came to Munich to film a scene and asked the English-speaking American college students there (myself included)to be extras. The scene was filmed at a Munich opera house (and included Lisa Welchel and Louise Fletcher). We extras were the audience, angry when the Magician doesn't show. The following year I saw the finished product at a Denver movie theater and was excited to discover that one of my friends was in a couple of close-up shots. I was dismayed when, many years later, I got the movie on video and most of the original scene was edited out, including the close-ups of my friend. I am hopeful that when the movie is released on DVD it will include the entire movie, which, by the way, is suspenseful, esoteric and well done.
I saw this at the Toronto Festival in 1979. I can't believe the distributors have wasted good petrochemicals making copies of this film. I only give it a "3" because of the literary quality of the story it's based on, not because it has *any* redeeming qualities.
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