Monday, 3 February 2014

Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries And Mentors Of Ricky Jay (2012)

You may not think that you know Ricky Jay, but if you're a movie fan then there's a good chance that you know Ricky Jay. What you might not know, and what I certainly didn't know, is that Ricky Jay is a skilled magician, with his main area of expertise being cards. This documentary looks at Ricky Jay as a magician, and allows him to wax lyrical about the people who influenced him during his upbringing, and about the general joy of magic.

Suitably enough, considering the central subject, this documentary seems deceptively simple. While Ricky Jay is relating moments from his life he is often playing with a deck of cards in his hands, riffling through them, cutting to an Ace, and just nonchalantly displaying a complete mastery of prestidigitation. And as he speaks of his influences it's hard not to warm to the man and his obvious passion for magic, despite his cool, slightly gruff, persona.

There are also comments from writer-director David Mamet, who has helped stage a number of  the magician's live shows, and some other people who have either worked with, or just befriended, him over the years. And there's plenty of archival material to enjoy, with some clips from live shows being a particular treat.

As skilled as he has become at it over the years, Ricky Jay often manages to move the focus away from himself, assuring that the documentary never feels all about him. In fact, he's a supporting player in the grand show that is being presented here as documentary. The people who get to be front and centre include his grandfather, Max Katz, the legendary Dai Vernon, equally legendary Charlie Miller, ALSO legendary Max Malini and many other skilled magicians who don't always get the credit they deserve for being such skilled professionals in their chosen fields and paving the way for many who would come along afterward.

If you like Ricky Jay then this is definitely worth your time, but if you like magic and skilled magicians then this is DEFINITELY worth your time.



  1. Whenever Ricky Jay appears in a movie written or directed by David Mamet he usually gets the coolest lines.

    1. From what I recall, I gotta agree with you on that, Derrick. :-)