Hired to assist in a murder investigation in Paris, our titular hero Simon the Magician (Simon Magus, 1999), as played by Peter Andorai, strikes out by train from Budapest.
By default a surrealist film, the surrealism arises from the awful, irrational storytelling. It's all pretty much an ordinary "dark fantasy" of magic in the modern urban world, very familiar to both genre fantasy writers & to magic realists among the literati.
Unfortunately, writer-director Ildiko Enyedi doesn't know how to work with fantasy in a manner that renders it credible, & ends up instead with something chaotic & silly.
Sometimes it seems like no one could tell a story this badly by accident & therefore it's secretly intentionally a big dumb comedy dashed together with poker faces all round, daring a befuddled public not to get the joke. But as humor it fails as much as it fails as supernatural suspense, & has nothing to it sufficiently witty to allow that any of it is intentional.
It's good cinematography, more than adequate for the actors' performances, so add to that a seemingly serious tone, it might fool some viewers into believing it is an impenetrable intellectual exercise. But it's just not. It's badly written fantasy played well enough to seem like it couldn't possibly be this bad. But it really is that bad.
The director trucked this turd around to film festivals & gave interviews that indicated she was pretty serious about it all. And the first ten or fifteen minutes is all mood & no content that lends to one's expectation of a film of consequence. Two hours later when it's all over, inconsequentiality is all we've seen.
The murder he was brought in to investigate is solved perfuntorily by means of the Secret Lives of Plants, a potted palm having been privy to the murder. This is achieved so swiftly there isn't even time to laugh at the chutzpa of tossing in a plot-wrecking device that moronic. And we're left without the story we were expecting, so the actors begin floundering to regain some direction.
The tale turns into something of a May/December romance as Simon stalks a woman (Julie Delarme) young enough to be his granddaughter, & she certainly seems hot for grampa, if only they could speak the same language to make it through the preliminaries.
If we're supposed to believe a beautiful young woman, relatively stable emotionally is eager to be porked by the grandfather's of the world, without even knowing whether he's got money first, without even being able to communicate verball, well, it could happen I suppose, but so rarely that this story really should've made some vague effort to make it convincing. Since nothing that happens will be convincing, the banal love story needn't be either.
Simon has a rival psychic living in Paris, a strange pale weirdo envious of Simon's abilities & eager to prove his own abilities are greater. His rival is named Peter (Peter Halasz) because the historic gnostic sorcerer Simon the Magician, alluded to briefly in the Acts of the Apostles, was in apocryphal tales someone the Apostle Peter strove against.
That historical Simon's girlfriend was Helen, so why she's called Jeanne in this crappy film is probably only because the author-director didn't need to do even superficial research to come up with a story as nonsensical as this one.
In any case, the contest between Simon & Peter boils down to a wizard-vs-wizard game requiring each to be buried underground for three days. This boringly occurs & the outcome three days later is what passes for a climax to a film without much of a story, & with even less resolution.
In interviews the director has imposed some meaning to the meaningless close, but it's not in the film, & I won't bother to repeat her extra-filmic justifications. One gets the impression she could've made a great film if someone else had written it. She's good at the visuals & she's good at selecting a primary cast. But that wasn't enough.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl