Review: ‘The Magicians’

Fascinating footnote to Spanish film and social history struggles to become worthy of attention in an engaging if overextended look at a rediscovered 1937 film that becomes a patchwork of personal memories and little else. Docu has value as part of Spanish culture's recovery of its historical memory. Theatrical will be limited.

A fascinating footnote to Spanish film and social history struggles to become worthy of attention in “The Magicians,” an engaging if overextended look at a rediscovered 1937 film that becomes a patchwork of personal memories and little else. Sweet moments abound, courtesy of its sprightly eightysomething cast, and the docu has value as part of Spanish culture’s recovery of its historical memory, but 20 minutes could be cut. The film-within-film motif may generate some fest interest, but theatrical will be limited.

In 1937, a year into the Spanish Civil War, a Catalan homemovie maker, Felip Sagues, made a film in a local orphanage starring the tots studying there. Pic brings together six of them to reminisce: another of the kid actors was helmer Cabezas’ father, now dead. Narrative is slim, with a single question, dealing with a stolen portrait of Franco, buried in the 1950s. The “double life” of the Spanish title refers to the fact that both the film and its participants are back in front of the camera again 70 years later. Pic features a cameo from high-profile vet Joaquin Jorda. Tech credits are above standard.

The Magicians

Spain

Production

A Nirvana Films release (in Spain) of an Oberon Cinematografica production with the participation of TVE, TVC. (International sales: Nirvana, Madrid). Produced by Antonio Chavarrias. Directed, written by Elisabet Cabeza, Esteve Riambau.

Crew

Camera (color), Albert Pascual; editor, Sergio Dies; music, Eduardo Arbide; art director, Maite Sanchez; sound (Dolby Digital), Albert Manera. Reviewed at San Sebastian Film Festival (Zabaltegi), Sept. 20, 2005. Catalan dialogue. Running time: 95 MIN.

With

Joan Altimiras, Xavier Bague Bofill, Jordi Bertran, Ramon Cleres, Maria Teresa Pascual, Artur Pous, Lluis Ros.
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