Sleight of hand tends to suffer on the big screen because moviegoers are so accustomed to mechanical trickery. But the magic in this documentary portrait of actor and stage illusionist Ricky Jay comes mainly from his fond recollections of old performers. Grandson of an amateur stage magician, Jay made his own performing debut in 1953 at age seven, and through his childhood and teenage years in Brooklyn he met some of the master prestidigitators of vaudeville and early video—Cardini, Tony Slydini, Francis Carlyle, Al Flosso, Dai Vernon, Charlie Miller. As Jay explains, these mentors were almost like martial arts sensei, testing his abilities and shaping his values; his colorful stories about these idiosyncratic characters conjure up a lost world of American entertainment. Molly Bernstein directed.
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