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Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay

Ricky Jay , Molly Bernstein    Unrated   DVD
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Product Description

Ricky Jay is a world-renowned magician, author, historian and actor (often a mischievous presence in the films of David Mamet and Paul Thomas Anderson) – and a performer who regularly provokes astonishment from even the most jaded audiences. Deceptive Practice traces Jay's achievements and influences, from his apprenticeship at age 4 with his grandfather, to such now-forgotten legends as Al Flosso, Slydini, Cardini and his primary mentors, Dai Vernon and Charlie Miller. Featuring rare footage from his 1970s TV appearances (doing 3-card Monte with Steve Martin on The Dinah Shore Show) and told in Jay's inimitable voice, this is a remarkable journey inside the secretive world of magic and the small circle of eccentrics who are its perpetual devotees.

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Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Two thirds of a great doc Dec 27 2013
By K. Gordon TOP 50 REVIEWER
A glass one-third empty, two-third full kind of film. The two-thirds that are rich and brimming is the wonderful introduction the various
colorful artists who mentored Ricky Jay into arguably the foremost card magician of our time. It’s a lineage we learn that is handed down
very personally, from generation to generation and then only in bits and pieces. Jay tells great stories of the men who inspired and
tutored him. And we occasionally see terrific glimpses of them performing in some great found old footage.

The second full third are the wonderful, if all too brief times we to watch Jay’s amazing artistry with cards and card tricks. Slight of hand
at this level is truly beautiful -- a dance of illusion. There’s a silky smoothness to Jay’s movements that works in wonderful tandem with
this spikey, off-beat, almost dangerous on stage persona.

The third that’s missing is a deeper exploration of the man himself. By his own admission Jay keeps the world at bay. We hear a very
few tantalizing bits about his boyhood family life away from magic, but then that’s put aside (even his manager of 20+ years admits
he knows better than to ask Ricky about his childhood). Only near the very end of the film do we even learn that Jay is married, and
that his wife seems to be a huge part of his life. Then this too is moved on from. I can accept that Jay and perhaps director Molly
Bernstein wanted to keep the film focused largely on Jay’s titular mentors, but, for my taste, they took the ‘mysteries’ part of the title a bit
too seriously. It’s frustrating to watch a truly striking human being talk about their life and craft for 90 minutes, and realize you know little
more about them at the end than at the beginning.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  17 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Stories Oct. 13 2013
By Samuel Lamerson - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
This is worth getting just for the clips of Dai Vernon and Charlie Miller. Add to that the incredible stories by those who have had their lives changed (yes, really) by one of Mr. Jay's tricks and you have a great film. But wait, there's more . . . film of Jay performing on TV as a small child before he was Ricky Jay, backstage work between he and Michael Weber, insight into the "rules" that Mr. Jay has about those who would desire to be his conversation partners.
Truly a fascinating film about a fascinating character. The director has promised lots of "extras" on the DVD and I can't wait to see them.
If you are a magician, a lover of magic history, or just a fan of Mr. Jay, this is a must have.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, informative, and well made. Nov. 10 2013
By Scott Joplin - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
The movie is entertaining, informative, and well made. The stories about Ricky's mentors were fascinating, and he was amazing and funny. I especially liked the runny nose trick he did with Ed Sullivan. There are copious bonus features on the DVD, including a performance by Flydini (Steve Martin).
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Ricky Jay Is Terrific, but the Film Lacks Substance and Focus. Nov. 23 2013
By mirasreviews - Published on Amazon.com
I admire Ricky Jay tremendously, first as a historian of magic and peculiar performance, secondly as perhaps the greatest living slight-of-hand artist, with an emphasis on card manipulation. I've never had the opportunity to see Jay live, so I appreciated the clips from his performances and interviews in this film. "Deceptive Practice", directed and edited by Molly Bernstein, takes its title from Ricky Jay's magic consulting business Deceptive Practices, Inc. The narration by Dick Cavett takes us through Jay's career in magic and scholarship, including commentary and history by Jay on the mentors of his youth and early career. Some of Jay's friends and colleagues are also interviewed, including playwright David Mamet, business partner Michael Weber, and manager Winston Simone.

"Deceptive Practice" begins with the career of 7-year-old Ricky Potash and the great influence of his grandfather, amateur magician Max Katz. Ricky Jay fondly recalls his grandfather and his grandfather's friends, accomplished magicians of the day who were the basis of his education in magic: "Cardini" or Richard Valentine Pitchford, Francis Carlyle, Tony Slydini, Al Flosso, who sparked Jay's interest in the history of magic, and Roy Benson. Jay also has a lot to say about Dai Vernon and Charlie Miller, to whom he was effectively apprenticed after Jay's career was well underway and he had achieved some notoriety from television appearances. All of this information about these great artists is wonderful, but there is a good deal less about Ricky Jay than about other people.

Through interviews with friends, we get a couple of insights into Jay's personality and some great stories that demonstrate his wry sense of humor and extraordinary slight of hand. But the insight into Jay's character is limited. "Deceptive Practices" doesn't have a clear purpose or point of view. It doesn't analyze Ricky Jay's career and professional contributions, which would be one approach. It isn't a character study. That would be difficult considering Ricky Jay's tendency toward secrecy. Jay is an engaging speaker and writer but reveals very little of himself beyond what you can glean from what he has not said. Nor is the film advancing any particular point of view. If it had a point to make about Jay or about magic or about deception, it could get away with a narrow focus. Unfortunately, "Deceptive Practice" is scattershot in spite of its interesting subjects.

The DVD (Kino Lorber 2013): Much of the bonus material is effectively deleted scenes, interviews and clips that didn't make the final cut of the film. "Jay's Colleagues on Camera" (20 min) are interviews with Paul Thomas Anderson, Heather Graham, David Mamet, and Mark Singer about Jay, and there is a clip from an old TV show with Steve Martin and Ricky Jay. "Ricky Jay and Michael Weber on Mentors and Magic" (15 min) are more interviews with those 2 men about their recollections of Dai Vernon and Charlie Miller. "Never-Before-Seen Performance Footage and Crazy Anecdotes" (29 min) are clips from performances, interviews, and lectures. "Ricky Jay and Mark Singer at The New Yorker Festival" (47 min) is a talk with Jay and Singer at The Friar's Club from about 10 years ago. "Unseen Animation" (1 min) is animation by Lisa Daly using Jay's book covers. "Promo for Bob Dylan's Love and Theft" (1 min) is an ad featuring Dylan and Ricky Jay. There is a theatrical trailer (2  min). The profile that Mark Singer did of Jay for The New Yorker in 1993 is available for download on the disc, or you can download it at Ricky Jay's web site. No subtitles for the film.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dynamite film on slight of hand Feb. 1 2014
By FilmViewer - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
I had seen Ricky Jay in films (most notably in House of Games). I didn't realize he had such a following and was doing public performances.

The film itself is well done, scripted, and directed. Not a dull movement.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Two thirds of a great documentary Dec 27 2013
By K. Gordon - Published on Amazon.com
A glass one-third empty, two-thirds full kind of film. One-third that is rich and brimming is the wonderful introduction to the various
colorful artists who mentored Ricky Jay into arguably the foremost card magician of our time. It's a lineage we learn that is handed down very personally, from generation to generation and then only in bits and pieces. Jay tells great stories of the men who inspired and tutored him. And we occasionally see terrific glimpses of them performing in some great found old footage.

The second full third are the wonderful, if all too brief times we to watch Jay's amazing artistry with cards and card tricks. Slight of hand at this level is truly beautiful -- a dance of illusion. There's a silky smoothness to Jay's movements that works in powerful tandem with this spikey, off-beat, almost dangerous on stage persona.

The third that's missing is a deeper exploration of the man himself. By his own admission Jay keeps the world at bay. We hear a very few tantalizing bits about his boyhood family life away from magic, but then that's put aside (even his manager of 20+ years admits he knows better than to ask Ricky about his childhood). Only near the very end of the film do we even learn that Jay is married, and that his wife seems to be a huge part of his life. Then this too is moved on from. I can accept that Jay and perhaps director Molly Bernstein wanted to keep the film focused largely on Jay's titular mentors, but, for my taste, they took the `mysteries' part of the title a bit too seriously. It's frustrating to watch a truly striking human being talk about their life and craft for 90 minutes, and realize you know little more about them at the end than at the beginning. It leaves a very entertaining and well made film feeling a touch incomplete.

That said, this is still very worth seeing. I was never bored, sometimes astonished by what I saw, and heard amazing stories I don't think I'll soon forget.
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