Are we all liars? and fraudsters, differentiated only by degree? I like the irony, and this Woody Allen’s, how many now, film. I am becoming a fan of Allen, especially for his latest works. Clearly a writer and director with broad knowledge of zeitgeist of different eras, and he seems to draw on them seamlessly in his films. Doing so he adds another layer of intrigue with what his scripts have already had to offer. Namely: Vicky Cristina Barcelona(2008); You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger(2010); Midnight in Paris(2011); Blue Jasmine(2012). A kind of nostalgia coruscates from beautifully painted backgrounds, whether Paris, Barcelona, Aix en Provence, Brooklyn, or London. Although not truly period pieces, his attention to details may surpass those that claim to be.
Wei Ling Soo is a famous magician playing at what looks to be Covent Garden. His maquillaged face is a facsimile of Fu ManChu with tonsure hair and queue, upper lips wear the Fu Manchu, dresses in silk embroidered cheongsam, his fingers encapsulated in long pointy golden rings gesturing a grand opening act: Disappearance of An Elephant.
In the backstage, Stanley (Colin Firth) a.k.a. Wei Ling Soo grouses about the stage hands’ consequential delays. Back in his dressing room, he complaints more until an old friend visits to congratulate him:Howard Burkan(Simon McBurney), Stanley’s old pal from childhood happens also a magician.
Howard wants Stanley, since he knows all tricks in the world, to attest to the truthfulness of a girl who practices occult: Sophie(Emma Stone) from America. Sophie is a medium, who has been invited with mom, Mrs. Baker(Marcia Gay Harden)to the British upper class Catledge’s summer home in Aix-en-Provence. Widower,Grace Catledge(Jacki Weaver) wants to speak to her departed husband. A séance has been prepared, and Stanley is an observer to uncover explainable fraudulent manifestations.
When Sophie first Stanley before that evening’s séance, she raised both arms at shoulder level, hands and fingers slightly spread, eyes looking into the distance, and said to Stan, “I see China…”. Stanley astonished, amused, however with augmented skepticism and cynicism.
While Stan debunks Sophie’s parlour tricks, Sophie defrosts Stan’s frigid scientific mind, Bruce Catledge serenades and woes Sophie to be his wife, there are beautiful scenery of Southern France, a social ball more realistic than that in The Great Gatsby(2013), and the Ute Lemper performs in cabaret.
Clearly Firth played the role superbly as a self-denying British snob; and Stone was well suited for a free-spirited wide-eye American charlatan. How subtle and interesting inference between these two characters: UK and US. You get it?
WATCH…Woody Allen says a lot in his films literally and subtly, but every piece is no fake but original.