Review by Jean Lowerison
“Magic is inherently honest. That’s the difference between deception as crime and deception as performance.” --- Ricky Jay
He was four when he apprenticed with his grandfather, amateur magician Max Katz. At seven, he had his own show.
He’s Ricky Jay, magician, actor (in several David Mamet films), shocker of skeptics. Director Molly Bernstein brings us his story (and many, many examples of his art) in the impossibly-titled Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay.
Dick Cavett narrates this new documentary, which not only delights viewers with tricks but enlightens with Jay’s story, including performances by his particular mentors Dai Vernon and Charlie Miller.
But it’s confounding the skeptics that’ll keep you in your seat. He’s got card tricks that never end (nor cease to amaze) and a lunch with a Guardian reporter which ends with a fabulous bit of prestidigitation he learned from magician Max Malini. A bet between Jay and Steve Martin on Dinah Shore’s TV show is a particular hoot.
When Jay’s grandfather died in 1965, “it was the end of family relationships,” he said. “My parents didn’t get it.” And soon after the 17-year-old Jay left home. He started as a bartender/magician at Lake George (New York) and went from there.
The film introduces influences such as now-forgotten legends Al Flosso, Slydini and Cardini (seen in old footage) and reveals he is a collector of books, posters and other magic memorabilia.
But mostly, viewers will be baffled and fascinated by what this man can do with cards. Watch for the watermelon trick. You may not believe what you’ll see, but you’ll love seeing it.