The Illusionist (Neil Burger). 110 minutes. For venues and times, see Movies, page 92. Rating: NNN Rating: NNNNN
Edward Norton stars as Eiesenheim, a famed illusionist who, following the murder of his lover, the Duchess Sophie ( Jessica Biel ), has taken to raising the spirits of the dead in his tiny Viennese theatre, much to the dismay of the Crown Prince ( Rufus Sewell ) and his chief of police ( Paul Giamatti ).
As a friend of old films, it struck me that, give or take the single painfully tasteful sex scene (What the heck? Is that Jessica Biel's elbow?) and the final plot point, which may or may not be happening entirely in the mind of the police inspector, this picture, with its indifference to accents and tastefully plush art direction, could easily have been made seven decades ago, with Ronald Colman in the title role, Merle Oberon as the Duchess, Charles Laughton as the inspector and Henry Daniell as the Crown Prince.
It's not a bad movie if you like that sort of thing - Norton alternately brooding and staring, Biel trying to fit comfortably in three or four layers of petticoats and Giamatti tightrope-walking between his own decent impulses and his role as imperial toady.
This feels a bit like a distributor dump, though - a quick run through some minor festivals, a mid-August opening and then the inevitable DVD release, I'm guessing in November.