Director: Luke Korem,
Written by: Bradley Jackson, Luke Korem
Cast: Richard Turner, Kim Turner, Asa Spades Turner
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 10/17/17
Opens: October 20, 2017
You probably won’t be terribly surprised to hear that some people look at their iPhones while making love. You can’t blame them; after all, it’s more exciting to communicate with dozens of people than with just one. But do you know anyone who shuffles card when having sex? That appears uniquely a trait of Richard Turner, who makes his living with the decks, has thousands of card packs in his home, and shows us in the movie audience some of his best work. For example, he can tell the people at his table in a blackjack game what cards they have when still face down, which is even more remarkable when you know that he totally blind. This is a guy who would be an awesome prestidigitator even with 20/20 vision.
In directing the film, Luke Korem, whose only other feature, a biopic of the controversial aristocrat Lord Montagu, sticks to the biographical genre by capturing perhaps the world’s greatest card mechanic (as he prefers to be called, rather than “magician” since “Magicians can’t do what I can do”). He performs in the midst of large, rapt theater audiences. The Austin-based director and co-writer Bradley Jackson’s major aim, though, is to show not what Turner can do despite his handicap, but the master’s stubbornness in refusing to acknowledge his weakness. He refuses to use a cane, lean on a dog, or learn Braille. The filmmakers treat that as a weakness, not a strength. When his son Asa Spades Turner (get it?) went to college at age 18 and Turner could no longer count on him as traveling companion, he finally learned how to use a computer and seemed not entirely opposed to using a seeing-eye dog as does his blind sister.
The commentary from various people in the family and industry does not take the form of deadening interviews which destroys many biopics. Instead the subjects extol their fascination with the man. Some who watch the movie will be encouraged to learn more about card tricks, but remember that Turner has been practicing his skill 16 hours a day (and as noted, even when he is making love). It might take anyone else years of practice simply to shuffle the deck in the eye-catching way that Turner can, easily creating domino-like bridges and sliding his hand across to watch the entire deck collapse, one card by one.
At one point he gets over his empty-net depression by teaching grade-school kids of the need for self-acceptance. The sixty-three year old Turner is watched over by his wife Kim who married him before he lost all of his sight. People who have watched his live theater performances do not cough or pull out their iPhones, thus confirming the man’s charisma. Turner had been selected among five nominees to win the award for best card sharp by Magic Castle. The movie won the SXSW Film Festival’s documentary audience award.
Unrated. 85 minutes. © Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Comments, readers? Agree? Disagree? Why?
Story – B+
Acting – A-
Technical – B+
Overall – B+