The Magus Reviews
The novel is 600+ pages of intrigue and philosophy, and it's not going to translate to the screen without heavy editing. Unfortunately the screenplay chops up the plot to the point of incoherence. Some changes (like Australian Allison becoming French Anne) seem pointless.
The best thing you can say for the direction is that the location is very pretty. The plot twists that are gasp-worthy in the novel are unfortunately baffling to unintentionally funny in the movie. I would love to see a modern remake of the Magus in the hands of David Fincher, or perhaps David Lynch. The Magus deserves better treatment than this film.
It IS a quite poor adaptation of an amazing, mysterious and voluminous novel (which I could not put down once started). However, its uniqueness makes for difficult cinema, even with author Fowles crafting the screenplay.
Michael Caine is the pawn; a teacher who runs away from Britain and his romantic commitment there (Karina) to take on a boarding school position in Greece (shot in Majorca locations). Quinn's the chessmaster, puppeteer, mystic/magician, who weaves Caine up into a set of logical impossibilities surrounding the presence of temptress Candice Bergen. Including the impossibility that Caine can see her standing at the foot of a cliff ... and atop it ... at the very same time.
Every step Caine takes toward the solution ends up two steps further away - but ever closer to the center of the black widow's web within which Bergen awaits. Soon enough, both Caine and the viewer teeter on schizophrenic paranoia.
Karina's as captivating as she was in "Pierrot le Fou" three years earlier, when she was still Godard's lover.
RECOMMENDATION: Worth a viewing - for only for inquiring minds that never intend to take on the reading.
As for the story itself, I got lost in some places. But I haven't read Fowles's book so I might have understood it better if I have.
dont let any of this reflect on the book, though. it's amazing.
The stately pace of the book is lost somewhat being condensed into a two hour film but the main problem is the same old story: characters you have formed in your mind made flesh will more often than not prove disappointing. It's not a total loss though. The scenery is beautiful, it's probably never less than intriguing if you haven't read the book, Candice Bergen and Anna Karina are 60's perfection and the film plays somewhere along the lines of The Wicker Man or The Game with a naïve stranger being hood-winked by everyone around him. So I'd probably file it under 'C' for 'Curio'.
THE MAGUS is filled with a number of flashbacks... scads of improbable events... and many "out of left field" situations that are interspersed throughout the film without any sort of differential or indication of when one scenario begins and another ends. It takes awhile to get used to this form (or lack of...) editing. Perhaps this was intentional on the part of the film-makers to include the audience in the main character's sense of overall confusion, frustration and inner struggle but it is a quite jarring method of doing so giving the film a feel of having had it's "edits" rushed.
THE MAGUS has a great cast who (at times...) seem to really be "over-acting" until you realize what's going on in the film and how appropriate their "hamminess" actually is.
Quinn and Caine are excellent, and the film offers up enough metaphysical conundrums and brow-furrowing situations to keep you watching till the end. THE MAGUS is worth seeing a few times as it's unlikely you'll catch everything that was intended to be caught the first time out.
Bizarre is a good word for this one... but in a good way.
Fans of the book may be somewhat disappointed despite author John Fowles' involvement with the film itself, but very few films from books are as good as their source material.
Keep this in mind and you should be able to sit back and be entertained by THE MAGUS.