Ricky Jay is a world-renowned magician, author, historian and actor (often a mischievous presence in the films of David Mamet and Paul Thomas Anderson) -- and a performer who regularly ...
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Ricky Jay is a world-renowned magician, author, historian and actor (often a mischievous presence in the films of David Mamet and Paul Thomas Anderson) -- and a performer who regularly provokes astonishment from even the most jaded audiences. Deceptive Practice traces Jay's achievements and influences, from his apprenticeship at age 4 with his grandfather, to such now-forgotten legends as Al Flosso, Slydini, Cardini and his primary mentors, Dai Vernon and Charlie Miller. Featuring rare footage from his 1970s TV appearances (doing 3-card Monte with Steve Martin on The Dinah Shore Show) and told in Jay's inimitable voice, this is a remarkable journey inside the secretive world of magic and the small circle of eccentrics who are its perpetual devotees. Written by
First Run Features
A glass one-third empty, two-third full kind of film. The two-thirds that are rich and brimming is the wonderful introduction the various colorful artists who mentored Ricky Jay into arguably the foremost card magician of our time. It's a lineage we learn that is handed down very personally, from generation to generation and then only in bits and pieces. Jay tells great stories of the men who inspired and tutored him. And we occasionally see terrific glimpses of them performing in some great found old footage.
The second full third are the wonderful, if all too brief times we to watch Jay's amazing artistry with cards and card tricks. Slight of hand at this level is truly beautiful -- a dance of illusion. There's a silky smoothness to Jay's movements that works in wonderful tandem with this spikey, off-beat, almost dangerous on stage persona.
The third that's missing is a deeper exploration of the man himself. By his own admission Jay keeps the world at bay. We hear a very few tantalizing bits about his boyhood family life away from magic, but then that's put aside (even his manager of 20+ years admits he knows better than to ask Ricky about his childhood). Only near the very end of the film do we even learn that Jay is married, and that his wife seems to be a huge part of his life. Then this too is moved on from. I can accept that Jay and perhaps director Molly Bernstein wanted to keep the film focused largely on Jay's mentors, but, for my taste, they took the 'mysteries' part of the title a bit too seriously.
It's frustrating to watch a truly striking human being talk about their life and craft for 90 minutes, and realize you know little more about them at the end than at the beginning. Again, it seems intentional. Jay wants to keep his personal mysteries to himself. But it leaves a very entertaining and well made film feeling a touch incomplete. That said, this is still very worth seeing. I was never bored, sometimes astonished, and heard amazing stories I don't think I'll soon forget.
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