This movie received a critical mauling. Even the celebrities hated it,oneof them (possibly Woody Allen) saying that if he had to live his lifeagainhe would do everything the same except he wouldn't go to see TheMagus!However, I don't think it is that bad. It certainly isn't particularlygood, but it carries a certain fascination in the way that it unpeels amulti-layered plot in a gleefully playful way. The main shortcoming isthatsome plot points are dealt with unclearly, making it a bit tricky tofigureout exactly what is going on. The ending in particular seems to be a bitconfusing. However, on the plus side, there are some powerful visuals.Thereare also strong leading performances from Michael Caine and Anthony Quinn,as well as a memorable turn from Anna Karina as one of Caine's ex-lovers.Candice Bergen gives a terrible performance, but perhaps the character sheis given to work with was unplayable anyway.Don't listen to the critics. See this one for yourself and judge it onyourown terms.
As other commentators I didn't quite know whether to expect the worstmovieever or an undiscovered pearl. Well, it is neither. For lovers of thenovel,I feel the film is quite adequate and interesting. Hard to imagine how thefilm impressions someone who hasn't read the book. In my mind this couldhave been an excellent film, but for two aspects: the score is awful(especially in the mountain climbing sequence with Anne); the final"trial"is totally botched, filmed as a dream-sequence instead of reality, as itshould be, and featuring a ridiculous robot. I wish I could do are-make.
I loved the gorgeous Greek scenery but the story, which is notsomething you can follow anyway, was even harder to follow in themovie. I cannot imagine how anyone watching the movie can get any kindof grip on it if they have not read the book, and then, like me, theywould probably wonder why Australian Allison turned into French Anne,and many other seemingly pointless changes in the story. The mysteriesin the book seemed to be chopped up or left out in the movie. I saw itwhen it first came out and had the same problems with it then, since Ihad read the book several times. I recently watched it with mygranddaughter (very intelligent at 20 and usually into movies I like)who was mostly amazed at how young Michael Caine and Candace Bergenwere in it, but otherwise could not imagine why one would watch itexcept for the scenery.
Fowles' first novel became the darling of the emerging countercultureof the 60s. It fit a handy niche of layered narratives, connected inways that emulated the emergence of "secret" cosmologies. By itself, itcreated a little stir because of the way it was folded by a certainkabbalistic technique while including reference to that technique. The history of this makes it essential viewing. Its Fowles' firstnovel, partially autobiographical, taking over a decade to write. Itsgrand, risky, sloppy. It is perfect in its way, being as confusing inhow it is written as the narrator within is. Its a happy accident thatits deficiencies increase the effect.The screenplay is quite a bit more incompetent and at the same timeleaving out most of the ambiguities in the story. So the film is adisaster. Fowles would later straighten up the narrative in the noveland issue what in the film world would be a "director's cut" whichtries to keep the ambiguities in the story but reduce them in thenarration. Its far less effective than the original.So why should you see this? Because it is a historical document thatchanged things significantly. Its based on two sources: one was a thenlittle-known set of Kabbalistic lessons on Tarot ambiguities. The otheris a piece of literary theory from the thirties: "Seven Types ofAmbiguity." (Don't search it out: it is far less interesting than thetitle implies.)Fowles simply conflated his own life (and remorse over handling aromance) into these two notions, deliberately trying to capture theseven types which incidentally inform my study of narrative folding.In September of 1966 while in Spain for the filming of "How I Won theWar," John Lennon, who hardly read anything, read this (twice, onceheavily rugged) and it changed his life, the direction of The Beatlesand hence enfranchised a new form of narrative. (He called and latervisited Fowles while this script was in development. There is noartifact of that in the script.) Its not Joyce, but it is the child of what he envisioned, dumbed down,but still raising the bar for narrative structure and affecting Iassert nearly everything.Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.
Agreeably, The Magus was confusing and many critics hated it. However,very few novels can be condensed into a movie with all of the novel'smajor details. I do feel the movie captured the 'feel' of John Fowlesbook. It was mysterious, beautiful Greek Isle scenery and a great cast,especially a young and sexy Candice Bergen. I found it to be anexcellent cautionary tale. When the movie was released, I was a youngcollege student aspiring to become a high school teacher. This createda strong sense of identity within me for the Michael Caine character,and his punishment for bad behavior and later redemption. Warning,watching The Magus on TV is a waste because of commercial interruptionsand the editing massacred the script's flow, leaving a very confusingplot. Unfortunately, I do not think the flick is available on DVD?Postscript: Good news. Cinema Classics Collection is schedule torelease The Magus DVD on October 17, 2006. Hopefully it will be anunedited release version?