Stanley is a magician who has dedicated his life to revealing fraudulent spiritualists. He plans to quickly uncover the truth behind celebrated spiritualist Sophie and her scheming mother. However, the more time he spends with her, he starts thinking that she might actually be able to communicate with the other world, but even worse, he might be falling in love with her. Written by
At one point during the film, Stanley and Sophie are caught in a lightning storm and take shelter in an abandoned observatory. This is a reference to Manhattan (also directed by Woody Allen) in which a similar scenario takes place. See more »
At the first séance when the candle levitates, as Howard grabs it out of the air, you can hear a snap as the string breaks free. The string then swings toward the camera, revealed as it catches a glow from the flame. See more »
I had an interesting chat with Mr. Taplinger, as he's called. I'd say he has a classic neurotic personality disorder. Brilliant parents who didn't get along, closer to his aunt than his mother, obsessed with mortality, believes in nothing, finds life to have no meaning. Just a perfect depressive, with everything sublimated into his art, and he is quite an artist. He began as an escape artist. Interesting choice if anyone ever wanted to escape from reality. But, like Freud, he will not permit ...
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Most viewers are taking this film as a conventional (and admittedly entirely predictable) romantic comedy which happens to be about a magician who debunks fake spirit mediums, and a beautiful young woman whom he believes is just that. But that's getting it *entirely backwards*. It is in fact a thought-provoking exploration of the extreme materialistic worldview -- the view that holds that modern science has eliminated the possibility of the existence of the soul, an afterlife, and God -- and an exploration of the psychological relationship between embracing that worldview, and being pessimistic and unhappy. As such, it is one of Allen's most personal and thought-provoking films in years.
And if that sounds "heavy," the miracle of the movie is its very lightness. Obviously, the themes enter in so effortlessly that many people are missing them entirely! You need to be interested in the tension between the materialist worldview and the conventional one that accommodates the spiritual and the mysterious, but if you are, you will be astonished at how delightful and entertaining an exploration of those deep themes can be.
The age discrepancy between Frith's and Stone's characters, which I am sure will bother many, is in fact completely necessary: he must be old enough to be set in his pessimistic ways, and she must be young and beautiful enough to challenge them at first sight.
Obviously there are happy atheists and there are miserable spiritual people, so the question that Allen is asking here is whether some unhappy atheists have embraced the soul- and God-denying position too vigorously, as a sort of defense mechanism to shield themselves from the fundamentally irrational possibility of falling in love. The way the movie knits together the materialist / spiritualist question, the possibility of love, and the metaphor of magic -- well, it's sheer magic itself.
This is far from Allen's funniest movie, and it's only a 7/10 as entertainment. But not only does it easily gain an extra point for its depth, it almost gains two. Admittedly, I am fascinated by the movie's themes, but I think that anyone who is interested in them may find themselves as charmed and, ultimately, as deeply moved as I was. 89/100.
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