Monday, September 22, 2008

Sometimes The World Of Illusion Needs A Little Help

I remember the first time I saw David Blaine perform. Back in 1997, I caught what was probably the second or third go-round for his "Street Magic" special, where he wandered up to ordinary folks like you and me, and proceeded to confound them with impressive tricks and illusions that could be done on any corner. It was his low-key delivery that made his audience's reactions so much more expressive. "Wanna see something kinda weird?" he would ask passersby. A camera crew is following the guy around, so it's probably going to be a little interesting, right?
Well, most of the tricks were variations on simple card forces with a dramatic flourish at the end to create the right amount of astonishment. His big finish was to "levitate" a few inches off the ground, just a few feet away from his slack-jawed patrons. When he came back to earth, he would return to the little crowd of onlookers and would appear to catch his breath, as if floating a few inches above the earth would wind even a trained illusionist.
And that would have been fine. It was a nice little bit of television, and even the second hour managed to be somewhat captivating, even if it meant we had to watch David chat it up one more time with his good buddy, Leonardo Di Caprio. Now, eleven years later, David feels the need to keep topping himself with successively more arcane feats of human endurance. This one is hanging upside-down. He intends to spend sixty hours suspended by his ankles over Wollman Rink in Manhattan's Central Park. He's not levitating. You can see the cable that is holding him sixty feet in the air. What's the point?
What was the point of being buried alive? Or frozen in a block of ice? Or staying underwater for seven days? Or sitting for a week in a Plexiglas box suspended over Potters Field near the Tower of London? Some might say that it's a modern-day geek show. I would say that he's giving geeks a bad name. Anyone who has watched magicians for any length of time knows that keeping your audience guessing "how did he do that" is the best trick. David Blaine is no longer content to confuse us. He just wants to gross us out. I was more impressed when he was just a few inches off the ground.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

yeah, ok David, we know you have superhuman, yogi-style endurance. Can you put it to use for the good of humanity? Can you teach a class? Can you rescue someone? Can you rise above the need to impress yourself?