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Trickery and Illusion: The Magic of Cinema
Sarah Wood
Trickery and Illusion: The Magic of Cinema

In Tait’s version, cinema as a time based medium can bring us closer to an understanding of the universal, ‘to a deeper knowledge than wisdom’ – but still frustrates us. This is the first broadening of the definition of the phrase the magic of cinema. Here, in the recording of film, is the mystery of life brought tantalising close to us but remaining indefinable. If you think about Douglas Gordon’s 24 hour Psycho (1993), one of the many brilliant things it reveals is how much more information is contained in a single film frame, in a filmic moment, than we can ever consciously know. There is a suggestion in the work of a mathematics that can’t calculate the full range of the spectrum held in light, the very literal sense that the literal blocks us from a universe of understanding beyond. Magic means so much more here than effect. It is an enactment of mystery. And the elements of mystery are tapping into something deeper. With this concentration on form, on the actual workings of film, the very notion of magic has already become more complex than the simple joy of watching Méliès dancing girls appear in a puff of hand-coloured smoke.

Still from 2'45 by William Raban, 1972
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