Woody Allen is quoted as saying that if he had his life again he’d change nothing except that he wouldn’t watch ‘The Magus’ a second time. I can see where he’s coming from as it’s a frustrating and difficult film, but you will see worse and at least it’s always sunny!
Michael Caine stars in his seventh Definite Article outing at Nicholas Urfe (pronounced ‘earth’), a young teacher who is starting an assignment working at a remote Greek school. His predecessor killed himself and the conditions may have something to answer for - no OFSTED pass here! He’s told that 'there are no women here' to which he relies ’Good’. No, not like that - he’s nursing a broken heart!
We see in flashback his romance with a French air stewardess who shows him her prized glass paperweight with a flower inside - the self same one Caine receives as a gift in the post. He looks somewhat saddened - maybe he was expecting a consignment of nudie mags when the postman appeared?
Anyway, to wile away the time Caine wanders around the island and soon meet Anthony Quinn who is hamming it up as usual. His character is Conchis (pronounced ‘Conscious’) and he starts to entrance/annoy Caine with a series of mind games and parlour tricks. He reads Caine’s tarot cards and explains ‘The Magus’ (that’s the name of the film!) card represents the magician. He also goes into flashback mode to explain his own heartache and morphs into a young Trigger. Trigger is so young his broom is on its first head and second handle and he’s dodging the war draft and upsetting his lady love at the same time.
Meanwhile Cane is seeing a foxy Candice Bergen in 1920’s garb and lots of fantasy hallucinations. Quinn reveals he’s actually a shrink and Bergen is his nutty patient. Caine doesn’t know who to believe when Bergen says she’s sane and lets him have a big kiss. With his air hostess erstwhile girlfriend heading by for a layover and no teaching being done whatsoever, we have to wonder who is mad, who is sane and who will watch to the end to find out?
After an nice skinny dip with the air hostess Caine lets her go in preference to Bergen who may or may not be nutty. Quinn meanwhile gives up a bit of his backstory and a sorry episode involving his time as mayor during the Nazi occupation. Caine is indifferent but gets interested when the Nazis appear and start to bother him. Is the whole thing a film set? A hallucination? A pretentious journey into the troubled Caine’s mind? Don’t ask me, I just watched it!
There is so much happening in ‘The Magus’ that it’s hard to totally dismiss it. It is a disjointed mess but there are good bits, especially Quinn’s impossible dilemma when he has the choice of bashing three partisans to death or letting the Nazis kill 80 locals. Actually that one doesn’t seem too tough.
The film doesn’t have a coherent narrative and you get the sense that this was the plan throughout. You could imagine polo necked film students getting a lot from analysing every frame, but for a casual viewer seeking entertainment ‘The Magus’ can’t be recommended.
- Well, apart from the unreleased ‘The Debtors’ that’s the Caine Definite oeuvre covered. It’s been a mixed bag at best but from an enjoyability standpoint alone I’d rank them best to worst as Actors, Hand, Statement, Destructors, Swarm, Island, Magus.
25% TAG Line : Make it Disappear!