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Bawdy Brits A Hit At FLIFF


Monday, November 12---------If you like your humor British and bawdy (and who doesn't?), then the feature film MAGICIANS is right up your alley. The film had its US Premiere on Saturday evening at the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival, and was an instant hit with the capacity crowds at the back-to-back screenings at the Cinema Paradiso Starring the comedy team of David Mitchell and Robert Webb, whose Channel Four series PEEP SHOW has been an award-winning megahit in the UK, MAGICIANS is a spot-on spoof, written by PEEP SHOW's Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain, and directed by former game show host and professional magician Andrew O'Connor.

This tale of rival magicians competing for the top prize at a magicians' convention is an outrageous laugh fest, in the tradition of BEST IN SHOW, with a little Ricky Gervais and Monty Python thrown in for good measure. With an accidental guillotining, a handful of fake poop, swear words aplenty and over-the-top comic performances, this satiric gem made it to the big screen in the UK in May 2007. FLIFF Festival Director Gregory von Hausch saw the film at the Cannes Film Market, and immediately responded to its bawdy humor and outrageous comic timing. "It reminded me of the British series that I love, like FAWLTY TOWERS", von Hausch shared with me. "These guys are not as well known in the United States as they should be, and we are so pleased to offer this great film a first showing in America."

For Mitchell and Webb, who also perform in tandem at live theatrical and concert events, the transition from television to film wasn't much of a stretch, although each shared that seeing their faces magnified to "the size of Mount Rushmore" took some getting used to. The film allows the talented comedians a chance to go beyond their television and stage personas, and actually play roles that require more background and depth. Their professional rivalry is always tempered with their obvious love for one another and the film does not eschew from sentimental moments that convey the camaraderie and loyalty of the dubious duo. In one hilarious sequence, Webb, his body covered to his neck in the sand, is taunted by the maligned Mitchell with the threat of retaliatory urination. One is never quite sure how far the humor will go, and that tightrope walk gives MAGICIANS an exhilirating feel of unbridled and nasty fun.

The environs of stage magic are no stranger to director Andrew O'Connor, who knows a thing or two about pulling rabbits out of hats. In a previous life, he was named Magician Of the Year at the tender age of 18, but was eventually kicked out of the Magic Circle for taking part in a television show called THE SECRETS OF MAGIC REVEALED. O'Connor (an engaging personality and quick wit himself) spent a decade in the purgatory of television game show hosting before making his directorial debut with this film. "It actually came together pretty quickly", O'Connor shared at a roundtable interview following the screening, along with Mitchell and Webb and the film's writing team. "The budget was 2 million pounds, and we found a producer and sales agent who were willing to take on this weird project."

As with the Christopher Guest mockumentaries that have clearly influenced the film, the supporting cast is stellar and riotously funny. Jessica Stevenson plays a pitifully untalented yet tender-hearted actress/dancer who becomes Webb's magician assistant. While an affair of the heart builds between them, Stevenson is off-kilter strange and quite naughty, with an amazing comic timing, delivering some of the film's most unexpected zingers (when asked how she likes her coffee, she replies "weak and white, like my men"). Also a standout is Darren Boyd, who plays Webb's irreverent and often outrageous agent, who literally runs away with the film with his totally mad portrayal of ego and libido run amock. A host of other comics play the rival magicians, who each have a limited amount of actual screen time, but score with their own manic insanity and gonzo behavior. MAGICIANS is slated to be released in the US on DVD, but seeing it without the benefits (and guffaws) of a live audience would be a great shame. This is one very funny film that earns its big laughs, and that laughter in a theater setting is definitely contagious.

Sandy Mandelberger, Festival Circuit Editor


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Mandelberger Sandy
(International Media Resources)

Coverage of the world of film festivals on the international film festival circuit.

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