ago, magicians tactfully called themselves jugglers. Both talents require dexterity, but the
latter was less likely to get practitioners burned at the stake, or what have
you. Just ask Ricky Jay. The illusionist and Mamet film regular is an
expert in the history of his craft, as viewers quickly learn straight from the
source in Molly Bernstein & Alan Edelstein’s documentary profile, Deceptive Practice: the Mysteries and
Mentors of Ricky Jay,
screens as part of the 50th New York Film Festival’s On the Arts sidebar.
Jay can make a deck of cards sing and dance.
He is also an old hand with the cup and balls. Magic effects with gambling implications are
clearly his specialty, but he is well grounded in the entire tradition of
illusionism. He had some talented
teachers, beginning with his grandfather, an amateur magician who counted many
professionals amongst his closest friends.
It was from such storied figures as Al Flosso (the Coney Island Fakir) and
Dai Vernon that Ricky Jay really learned the secrets of his craft.
Ricky Jay is certainly seen doing plenty of effects (to use the preferred
terminology), Deceptive is more about
his work as a historian of magic and his relationships with his mentors and
colleagues. Fortunately, the professional
performer definitely knows how to tell a story.
For the uninitiated, it also offers an intriguing peak into an exclusive
but collegial world, where headliners and hobbyists rub shoulders and forge
friendships based on their mutual passion for magic.
has its serious moments, gingerly probing its
subject’s strained relationship with his parents, but mostly it is just fun
stuff. Featuring vintage clips of Ricky
Jay performing on the Dinah Shore Show
as well as interviews with the likes of Mamet, Steve Martin, and other admirers
of the magician, it is an entertaining introduction the nimble-fingered card
specialist. Recommended for his fans as
well as those fascinated by colorful subcultures, Deceptive Practices screens this Thursday (10/4) as part of the
2012 New York Film Festival, with Ricky Jay himself scheduled to appear in person.
Labels: Documentary, NYFF '12, Ricky Jay