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Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay cover image

Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay 2012

Highly Recommended

Distributed by Kino Lorber Edu, 333 West 39 St, Suite 503, New York, NY 10018; 212-629-6880
Produced by Molly Bernstein & Alan Edelstein, Alicia Sams, Philip Dolin, Cathy Greenwold, Terry Gross, Mark Singer, Peter Block, Ronald Guttman
Directed by Molly Bernstein & Alan Edelstein
DVD, color, 89 min.

Jr. High - General Adult
Drama, Film Studies, Humor, Philosophy, Popular Culture, Psychology, Storytelling, Theater

Date Entered: 07/11/2013

Reviewed by Jennifer Dean, MALS student, City Univerity of New York (CUNY Graduate Center)

The aptly name Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay tells the story of the magic of Ricky Jay and those who taught, admire and learned from him. Although directors Molly Bernstein and Alan Edelstein include ample footage of interviews with Ricky Jay the movie elucidates more in regard to those who influenced him and the story of magic in general than delving into the character of Ricky Jay – who remains somewhat of a mystery. We learn details of his life but as a consummate performer he remains somewhat guarded and there are only slight insights into Ricky Jay the man as gained from interviews with others. Those interviews, in turn, tend to only reveal further Ricky Jay’s elusiveness.

In an interview with a British journalist from the BBC we learn that he can be difficult and that there was a previous documentary about him where the director and Ricky Jay failed to see eye-to-eye suggesting that there is more to the man who has been regaling us with stories throughout the film. However, rather than detracting from the film this only adds to the intrigue. Bernstein and Edelstein have managed to create a wonderful portrait of magic and performance. The movie reminds me of a line from Tennessee Williams’ Glass Menagerie where Tom tells the audience, “I am the opposite of a stage magician. He gives you illusion that has the appearance of truth. I give you truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion.” Deceptive Practice in its exploration of illusion provides nuggets of truth about relationships (the family you are born into and those you acquire), life, love, loneliness, understanding character and performance.

As much as being a movie about magic it is also about the overall act of performing. Much can be gained by actors, directors, playwrights and theatre historians from a viewing of the film, not to mention a general understanding with regard to perfecting any craft or art. The engaging images and interviews (including longtime collaborator David Mamet) are accompanied by a fantastic score by Bob Dylan and David Grisman.