THE MAGUS (1968)
Viewing Date: 1-9-2012
Posting Date: 1-19-2012
Directed by Guy Green
Featuring Michael Caine, Anthony Quinn, Candice Bergen
What it is: Fantasy/drama
An unhappy English schoolteacher who has come to Greece meets a mysterious man on an island, possibly a magician of sorts. The man takes the teacher on a journey of understanding through the use of a series of role-playing games.
I've not read the novel on which this movie is based, but, based on what I see here, I would venture to say it's one of those that cannot be easily translated into another medium. The ambiguous nature of the "magic" of the title character makes the fantastic content here fairly elusive, but this isn't the first time we've been in territory like this. This is one of those movies that doesn't parse out easily (if at all), so I can't say at this point whether this movie will call me back for more exploration or whether it might not even make me search out the novel on which it is based. I can say this much though; on a certain gut level, I sense that this movie more or less hangs together, and there are some very memorable scenes. Perhaps the most powerful of these scenes involves a flashback to World War II and tells the story of the title character as a younger man forced to serve as a mayor of the small town during the German occupation, and who must make a horrible decision when some members of the resistance kill some German soldiers, setting in motion a nightmarish sequence of events. In the end, you're never quite sure what was real and what was fantasy and illusion, but, to the movie's credit, it never really made me feel as if it would be explained. The acting is very good throughout, with Candice Bergen showing a vast improvement over her work in THE DAY THE FISH CAME OUT
, which also took place on a Greek island.