Friday, October 20, 2006

The Prestidigitation of The Prestige

"The Prestige" (dir. Christopher Nolan, US, 2006, 128 mins.) I include Christopher Nolan ("Following" "Memento" "Insomnia" "Batman Begins") as one of our generations auteurs, along with Tom Twyker ("Run Lola Run" and I CAN'T wait for "Perfume"!) and Fernando Meirelles ("City of God" "Constant Gardener"). His films are ART. Not necessarily popular, and at times annoyingly just out of reach, but art can be like that. "The Prestige" is like that. Disguised as a twist encrusted thriller, it is actually a character study of two men's obsessions. Inserting the illusions in Nolan's trademark non-linear plotting only makes the film more difficult to follow. Not that I am complaining about that, mind you. However, one needs to be prepared, or at least in the frame of mind to tackle such a sophisticated screenplay. I could compare it to the first time I saw "Vertigo". I just wanted it to END. I wanted the obsession to be resolved. I felt that same kind of need for relief towards the end of "The Prestige". The twists and mysteries had played themselves out, yet the obsessions of the two characters continued and I needed them to stop. I needed the film to stop and let us out of the crazed little world it created. And I mean that in the best possible sense.

The production design and cinematography are excellent. There are moments of stunning beauty, as well as brutal realism. The editing is sure footed and quite precise, if not too exhaustive. I doubt anyone would deny that the film feels too long, even though the pacing is fairly swift. It is the length of the journey that feels tiresome, yet that is its point. My one real negative criticism of the film is the sound design! I could not understand everything that was being said. The vocal track needs to be bumped up over the atmospheric foley and the ever moody score.

The cast is beautiful to look at. Hugh Jackman gives an excellent performance to an exceptionally complicated character. His arc from romantic lead to vengeful obsessive is seamlessly played out. The complicated script may have confused Christian Bale, as his accents were all over the place and not for any particular reason. Bale has an even MORE convoluted character to play in the piece, however the inconsistencies within the performance went beyond the acknowledged difficulty of the role. Michael Caine gives another solid performance, and it would be really cool to see this again to really dissect what he is doing, as he holds the keys to the twists involved. Scarlett Johannsen is her typically gorgeous self, but does not really have much to do here. David Bowie is simply terrific and nearly unrecognizable as Tesla, who plays a central role in the men's obsessions. Oh! Also, Andy Serkis ("Gollum") actually steals a scene or two with his quirky brand of humor, as Tesla's assistant, nee 'Igor'!

"The Prestige" is a difficult film to wholeheartedly recommend. You gotta be in the mood! But if you are in a relaxed state of mind and prepared to ride along Nolan's portraiture of obsession, then you must see this!

1 comment:

Maxxxxx said...

"Whatcha' doin'?"