That’s how The Jerusalem Journal begins its very positive review of Deceptive Practices: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay.
We are told of a British journalist who dined with Mr. Jay in a café on a hot, sticky day. (The article doesn’t say “sticky” but we believe it was implied and will stand by our interpretation).
He related a story about Max Malini, “who once borrowed a woman’s hat, placed a silver dollar underneath it, then lifted the hat to reveal that the coin had transformed into an enormous chunk of ice. And at that moment, the journalist recounts, Jay lifted his menu with a flourish to reveal his own 1-foot-square block of ice, which materialized as if out of thin air. The journalist was so astounded by ‘this supreme piece of artistry,’ she says, that she ‘burst into tears.'”
Deceptive Practices lovingly created by filmmakers Molly Bernstein and Alan Edelstein will open this Friday, May 17th in Los Angeles. You can check out the official movie site for listings in other areas and states here.
The Journal says Mr. Jay keeps his secrets – particularly when it comes to magic effects or personal matters – but does perform some pretty amazing things for the camera and the audience beyond. It “unfolds like a magical mystery tour of Jay’s professional art and artifice. On camera, he transforms a paper moth into a real insect, flings a card at 90 miles per hour to pierce the skin of a watermelon and dazzles audiences with his specialty — astonishing card tricks — with maneuvers so virtuosic they defy the imagination.”
The documentary does trace Mr. Jay’s evolution and development from student of his late grandfather and amateur magician, Max Katz as well as Slydini and Cardini to budding performer in his own right at the age of 14 under the nom du magic Tricky Ricky.
We learn how he left home to work as a professional in nightclubs and on television shows like The Dinah Shore Show and The Tonight Show. He studied under Dai Vernon and Charlie Miller and learned the skills that have consistently made him one of the top cardmen in the business. How good is Mr. Jay?
“During a conference call from New York, Bernstein and Edelstein admitted to studying those tricks in slow-motion in the editing room, but said they still have no idea how Jay effortlessly transforms one card into another.”
The guy is good. Let’s not kid ourselves.
The critics have been pretty uniform in liking the film.
“Wonderfully engaging!” – New York Magazine
“Full of happy surprises. Card tricks that leave his audience speechless.”
– David Edelstein, New York Magazine
“He puts on a smashing show, whether on or off the stage…
Mr. Jay proves a hugely entertaining guide…”
– Manohla Dargis, The New York Times
****! [4 stars]
“(A) great enchanter! A reminder that deception, in the best of cases, is a pathway to transcendence.”
– Keith Uhlich, Time Out NY
“A riveting look at Mr. Jay’s arduous, arcane pursuits through the prism of those who taught and inspired him to be one of the world’s great magicians. Some of his illusions are so stunning that they leave spectators teary-eyed – out of amazement, or perhaps fear.”
– Robert P. Walzer, Wall Street Journal
“Grade: A- Intriguing. A true master magician. Shows practical magic can be just as thrilling as anything you see on Game of Thrones.”
– Drew Taylor, Indiewire.com
“There is a great deal of sheer fun of watching him grow up from little Ricky Potash, a 7-year-old performer of surprising poise… to a shoulder-length-haired hippie in a three-piece suit working the daytime talk shows with gusto, to the wry elder statesman of today. Jay’s memories are… warm, charming and instructive.”
– George Robinson, Jewish Week
“This introduction to Jay’s world and his most secretive fraternity…dazzle(s) you with its clips of Jay pulling astonishments minor and major with the decks of cards he is forever just unwrapping from their plastic… We see mad and gorgeous excerpts from his library of magic guides. Here’s a movie with magic.”
– Alan Scherstuhl, Village Voice
Just watching this magician’s hands at work with a deck of cards is positively mesmerizing.”
– Lou Lumenick, New York Post “You will be wowed.” – Scott A. Rosenberg, AM New York
Deceptive Practices opens at the Landmark Nuart Theater Los Angeles on May 17.