Thursday, January 11, 2007


A film for the ages: Neil Burger’s ‘The Illusionist’ on home video Jan. 9

Filmmaker Neil Burger probably never imagined that magician movies would become something of a trend when we sat down to discuss his period romance “The Illusionist” at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival. Sitting on a backroom sofa at the constantly chaotic VW Lounge, one of the festival’s hot spots for publicity, Burger blocked out the surrounding commotion and spoke eloquently about his use of classic moviemaking technique in order to give “The Illusionist” its timeless look. His efforts paid off handsomely.
Set in 1900 Vienna, with Edward Norton playing Eisenheim, a magician who becomes entangled with Austria’s Crown Prince (Rufus Sewell) over the hand of a pretty woman (Jessica Biel), “The Illusionist” rode the wave of its positive Sundance reception into sizable audiences during its early fall release. Burger’s acclaim outshone the favorable reaction to the season’s sophomore magician drama, “The Prestige,” a larger-budgeted production featuring Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman as dueling London magicians. It was Burger who earned comparisons to German expressionist FW Murnau and other pioneer moviemakers. Now, film lovers have another chance to experience “The Illusionist” with its January 9 release on home video. Better yet, aspiring moviemakers and magicians can show off their own illusionist skills by submitting a video short of their own feats of magic via the “Illusionist Favorite Magic Trick Contest.” Go to http: to enter (submissions must be received by January 31). Appropriately enough, the grand prizewinner will receive a trip to the Magic Castle in Los Angeles, Mecca for aspiring magicians everywhere. Like all timeless films, “The Illusionist” offers new surprises with every repeated viewing. Consider the contest a cool DVD extra.

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