If you see only one documentary film this year, this HAS to be it. This is one of those rare ones which HAD to be made. Why? Because otherwise, you'd NEVER see nor hear these women's stories. And you NEED to see and hear them. There—do I have your attention yet? Good!
There is no real beginning, middle nor end to the narrative here, simply a series of interviews of magicians' assistants and their not-necessarily-better halves, loosely grouped into categories such as classic magicians, magic acts which are a family affair and of course, When Things Go Wrong. There is some live footage, but the aim here is to speak with the performers in relaxing surroundings, far away from the madding crowd. In lieu of my usual practice of summarizing a plot and giving commentary thereon, I merely present the following reminisces of the film, in no particular order …
Stacy Jones (of the Majestix, where she was assistant to Michael Giles and did all the booking, the marketing, the working with agents), 'If they only knew the woman's doing 90% of the work.' An aside: as an interviewee, Jones was the most captivating. I told her afterwards I just HAD to see her on stage. Alas, she isn't performing at present. Sigh.
Monique Dimarre to her boyfriend, 'I'll marry you, but there's no way in hell I'm going to do magic.' Sure enough, after they were married, she did magic.
One of Lance Burton's assistants relates, 'When you draw blood, you're an official Burton's babe.'
Gay Blackstone tells of working with husband Harry Blackstone Jr. onstage. She does all the work, '… and Harry, he stands there and goes, Ta da!'
They all speak highly of Australian Moi Yo Miller, the oldest living magician's assistant. She estimates she's been sawed in half 11,800 times.
Other magician's assistants in the film include mother and daughter, Deanna and Luna Shimada; Frances Willard; Jan Jones (no, not the former Las Vegas mayor of the same name); Tammy Calvert, who works with John Calvert, the world's oldest performing magician; and 'Princess' Irene Larsen, mother-in-law to the film's writer.
One magician to another, whose wife is pregnant: 'I hope you have a girl—you'll have an assistant.'
Teller (of Penn &): 'Truly if the women weren't having a good time, they wouldn't be doing it. I can testify to the boredom of being in a box for a long time. I too have fallen asleep.'
Jack, of Goldfinger & Dove, tells of making Dove an offer she couldn't refuse, i.e., to marry him AND become his assistant.
During the Q&A, writer Larsen stated she just wanted to hear everything these women had to say and capture it on film. After she met the directors, they were filming within two weeks. Director Noyes recalled the film's inception, 'Women in boxes, magicians' assistants. Oh my God, that's the greatest idea ever!' He went on to say, 'Originally, I thought there's be a bit of hacking and chopping, and it ended up being a love story. We thought there'd be a lot of cattiness, and there wasn't, which was really disappointing. Even between takes, they were nice to each other.' Director Pallenberg explained, 'Getting archival footage was a battle—a long, long process.' They got 150 hours, some of it in obscure formats. How they managed to pare it down to 80 minutes is one secret they DIDN'T reveal.
My only real criticism of this film is that it wasn't longer, say, four hours. Believe me—it's a rare film indeed I say that about.
Women in Boxes (2008) [world
premiere], The Fremantle Corp., 80 mins. www.womeninboxes.com. Directors, Phil
Noyes / Harry Pallenberg. Writer, Blaire Baron Larsen. I give this film 4 stars
(out of 4).
L to R: Phil Noyes, Blaire Baron Larsen, Harry Pallenberg.
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