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  • Dir:
      Guy Green
  • Prod:
      Jud Kinberg, John Kohn
  • Scr:
  • Ph:
      Billy Williams
  • Ed:
      Max Benedict
  • Mus:
      John Dankworth
  • Art Dir:
      Don Ashton

    (20th Century-Fox/Blazer)



    [ t h e   m a g u s : m o v i e  r e v i e w ]

    Rated: -

      Asked whether he would do everything the same if
      he had to live his life all over again,
      Peter Sellers thought for a moment and said:
      “Yes. But I would not see The Magus.”

    Now the author of the book The Magus, John Fowles, draws three types of readers to his books:

      1) Those who love his work (like Jodie Foster) and are intellectually capable of absorbing the complexity of it all.
      2) Those who try it and haven't a clue what he's on about.
      3) Those who try it and haven't a clue what he's on about but walked about with a copy of The French Lieutenant's Woman in their younger days so that any attractive woman on the tube could see they must be an intellectual.

    I fall in the last camp. I just got out my ancient copy of The French Lieutenant's Woman and every gap, every margin, is full of handwritten words I've scribbled down copying words he's used and which I had to look up to understand the meaning! Boy, does Fowles love the big word! I haven't got a mouth big enough to get my teeth round some of the biggest words. Why he couldn't write something in plain English so I wouldn't have to look it up...or I am missing the point? Maybe I'm just thick.

    But anyway, let's agree that Fowles isn't the easiest of readers to understand. And like most of the film adaptations of his work, The Magus is almost unfilmable. And knowing this, what do the producers decide to do? Why, get Fowles to write the script as well!

    The result is one of the most pretentious movies ever. But try and get to see it if you can: you'll wet yourself laughing that movies can be this bad!

    Filmed largely in Majorca (although the setting is Greece), The Magus is a black fantasy-drama of self-realization. That's what I can make out of it when I'm not doubled-up laughing.

    Michael Caine is an English teacher dispatched to a Greek island as replacement for a suicide. On the island, he meets Anthony Quinn, who is a mystic, or a wealthy spiritual hedonist playing God, or a film producer, or a recluse.

    I'm not alone in not understanding Fowles' work. Caine admits that he has difficulty understanding any of Fowles' work, and even after the script had reportedly been simplified, he still didn't have a clue what the story was about.

    The Magus was the first of a two-picture deal Caine had with 20th Century-Fox, both of which he considers, on reflection, as disasters. He says in his autobiography:

      'I did not want to make the picture but I had to under the phantom contract.'

    He tried to show more enthusiasm when the cameras began rolling.

      'They said it would all come right in the cutting room...but it didn't.'

    Caine co-star Quinn, whose entourage would arrive on the set before the actor and inform his co-stars what mood Quinn happened to be in. One morning Caine retorted, 'Has he ever asked what mood I'm in?' From that moment the pair got on well, and working with Quinn is Caine's only fond memory of the occasion. They would later co-star in The Marseille Contract.

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© 2004 by the appropriate owners of the included material