Tag Archives: Fabrizio Bentivoglio

Magicians (2000, James Merendino)

Supposedly, Magicians came out on DVD (pan and scanned), then disappeared as the releasing company went under. Merendino shot it Panavision, so there was some painful cropping. It’s still possible to see some of what Merendino was doing, but sometimes I just had to imagine how much more effective it would be. Merendino’s a filmmaker who does more with his money than John Carpenter did back in the late 1970s, which is an incredible feat. Merendino knows how to make things work and if I weren’t aware of that ability, I wouldn’t have been looking for the signs and I wouldn’t have found them.

Much of Magicians is an absurd comedy about a great pick-pocket, played by Fabrizio Bentivoglio, and a lousy magician, played by Til Schweiger. They go on the road to Vegas, learning their act on the way, assisted by trainer Alan Arkin and Claire Forlani. Maybe what won me over (not really, it happened to far in) was the scene where all of them are laughing. It’s obvious the actors are laughing, mostly at Arkin, who’s hilarious. Bentivoglio has the leading man role and he does a great job with it. Merendino loves conversation and Bentivoglio has some great scenes because of that emphasis. As for Claire Forlani… her work in Magicians made me reevaluate my opinion of her. I kept stopping myself, realizing it was really Claire Forlani (she has short hair instead of the regular long–and her acting is good). Only Schweiger is bad. He’s funny at the beginning, but he gets old fast. Even though Magicians is absurd, his handle on the character is just too loose. And his uncanny resemblance to Leonardo DiCaprio only makes things worse. The character does have a great scene at the beginning–before it’s revealed he’s a bit of a twit, which Schweiger can’t handle–and one towards the end, when he has to stop acting like a twit.

Merendino’s script is deceptively simple. It’s inventive and intelligent, giving perfect little moments to characters–Arkin in particular. When it gets to the end, after some really funny scenes and some great low budget filmmaking, Magicians has developed into a touching story about friendship. Then, for the close–which is great–it finally becomes about magic. And wonderment. It’s a great close. It’s appalling this film doesn’t have an acceptable DVD release.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Written and directed by James Merendino; director of photography, Thomas L. Callaway; edited by Esther P. Russell; music by Elmo Weber; produced by Sam Maydew and Peter Ward; released by Pop Art Films.

Starring Til Schweiger (Max), Claire Forlani (Lydia), Fabrizio Bentivoglio (Hugo), Alan Arkin (Milo), Chi McBride (Tom) and Christopher McDonald (Jake).


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Apartment Zero (1988, Martin Donovan)

Starting Apartment Zero, I couldn’t remember why I’d wanted to see the film. I had a feeling it was going to be something I’d since dismissed and it was–Apartment Zero is David Koepp’s first screenwriting credit. He co-wrote the film. Koepp’s an odd person to look for, since his writing is so vanilla and indistinct, regardless of quality, it’d be like looking for William Goldman. There’s actually a lot of personality to Apartment Zero, but I imagine it came from the director (who co-wrote with Koepp). There’s very little to say in terms of the writing. While there’s some funny stuff, most of its success comes from the direction (the director’s name is Martin Donovan). Donovan has decent composition, but does great work with movement–both moving subjects and moving cameras. There’s a hilarious chase scene and then there’s some other good, fast camera work. The humor in the script tends to fail–except maybe the characters lifted from “Fawlty Towers.” Near the end, most of the humor is in the dialogue and it all falls flat.

Besides the direction, the film looks fantastic. Buenos Aires is apparently a wonderful place to shoot a movie. It looks warm and foreign, but still somehow familiar. The cinematography is perfect, with the low budget, grainy film stock creating a mood. Also on the technical end is the sound design. Apartment Zero has great sound.

As for the performances, Colin Firth and Hart Bochner… Bochner’s visibly familiar since he’s the jerk in Die Hard, but his performance in Apartment Zero is actually quite good for much of the film. Firth is not any good, but it’s barely his fault. His character–and the film in general (at the beginning, it reminded me–ha ha–of Delicatessen)–has no depth. It’s absurd, in the waste of time sense of the word. It’s also one of those wonderful films where, once it finds its below average level, it still manages to get worse in the last five minutes. It doesn’t exactly have a surprise ending, but it’s got something close. Whatever it’s called, it’s damn lame.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Martin Donovan; screenplay by Donovan and David Koepp, story by Donovan; director of photography, Miguel Rodriguez; edited by Conrad M. Gonzalez; music by Elia Cmiral; production designer, Miguel Angel Lumaldo; produced by Donovan and Koepp; released by Skouras Pictures.

Starring Hart Bochner (Jack Carney), Colin Firth (Adrian LeDuc), Dora Bryan (Margaret McKinney), Liz Smith (Louise McKinney), Fabrizio Bentivoglio (Carlos Sanchez-Verne), James Tefler (Vanessa) and Mirella D’Angelo (Laura Werpachowsky).


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