Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Cinema talk - Rough Magic (1997)

Cast: Bridget Fonda, Russell Crowe, Jim Broadbent, D.W. Moffett, Paul Rodriguez, Euva Anderson, Kenneth Mars
Director: Clare Peploe
Producers: Declan Baldwin, Laurie Parker
Screenplay: William Brookfield, Robert Mundi, and Clare Peploe based on the novel Miss Shumway Waves a Wand by James Hadley
Cinematography: John J. Campbell
Music: Richard Hartley
U.S. Distributor: The Samuel Goldwyn Company

Romantism, Mysticism can be summed up in the way the last scene of the film unfolds. "Cry...and get your soul back" says Ivan, handing over a handkership which turns blue as Myra opens it. She walks up to her apartment, the camera floats behind her tilts down to the ground revealing a red and later a yellow hankership lying in the ground and the stairs leading to Alex Ross waiting for Myra.

Rough Magic, which takes place sometime in the early 1950s, we meet a magician's innocent assistant, Myra Shumway (Bridget Fonda), who becomes engaged to the savvy, smarmy senator, Cliff Wyatt (D.W. Moffett). Each sees advantages in the match -- Myra wants Cliff's money and he, in turn, observes that if "I marry a beautiful, virginal orphan... my approval rating soars 17 points." Unfortunately, there's trouble when Cliff accidentally kills Myra's magician mentor (Kenneth Mars). Armed with a photograph of the senator committing the dastardly deed, Myra goes on the run in Mexico, where she encounters an eccentric quack, Dr. Ansell (Jim Broadbent), who wants her to use her magical talents to defraud an old witch-woman out of her recipe for a special tonic. Myra gets away from the doctor as soon as she can, and ends up taking a long car ride with a cynical, ruggedly handsome newspaper reporter named Alex Ross (Russell Crowe). As their journey takes them deep into Mexico, the story gradually veers into the mysticism of absurdity.

Rough Magic works at different levels, halfway the film you will keep guessing, what kind of genre does this belongs to. It lifts the film from a mundane runaway road movie to sprituality and romantic comedy. Russel Crowe was a wrong choice for the film, as I think a more mellow actor could have done a better job. Moreover, by the time the chemistry builds up between him and Bridget, the film is already over.

The real flaw in Rough Magic's approach isn't that it has so much fun playing around with our expectations, but that it tries to make a serious point about spirituality. On the pretext of revealing more about magic and secret science of mysticism, the film plays on your expectations, and the scene where the man turns into a sausage and soon enough the dog starts speaking shakes the viewer out of the trance of a serious film. Soon the viewer realises that, now anything and everything is possible in the film, and the film shakes off seriousness, and it surely disappoints you.

The high part of the film is the comedy elements and Bridget Fonda. Her performance is mysterious and it definitely adds on to the magic woven by the film. You can see her interview on her opinion on the film, and clippings from the film at the end of this review. The scene where Ross (Crowe) comes to profess his love for Myra(Bridget), and they kiss for the first time in the film, some of the lines taken straight out from romantic novels are well complemented by the way the camera moves from the static tripod into a fluid movement, and they soon actually lift up from the bed and starts flying. Ross says " I have never felt like this before, it feels like I am flying"

Watch the movie, and surprise yourself with what the film claims or doesn't claim to offer.

Rating: 6/10 video clips:


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