I didn't expect it so soon.
When I undertook writing this column, I knew that I would eventually face a terribly frightening task. I would have to review a video of a friend. Or worse, a master in the field whom I respect so much that my opinion might be swayed. Or my worst fear of all: reviewing myself in a video. I never thought that this would happen so soon. Or all at once.
Only Juan Tamariz could hit me with a K.O. like this.
Juan has recently made three videos that A-1 Multimedia will hope to have hit the streets in July. That means that the tapes I'm reviewing are "preview" copies. Aside from an absence of packaging, they still have a little bit of post-production work remaining to be finished.
When Juan mentioned that he was planning to do the videos with Mike Maxwell, he inquired if I could attend the taping, in order to lend a helping hand. I rarely refuse any request of the Maestro (unless it involves the tasting of fish), and to be honest, I thought of the offer as a honor. I figured that I would be a behind-the-scenes consultant, helping Juan with little details. As it turned out, Juan asked me to sit in on all of the explanations, and clarify his broken English "on the fly" in case he made any verbal mistakes (English is not his native tongue).
As you can see, this is a unique situation. I'm reviewing a dear friend. I have the unusual position of having witnessed the entire filming. I have to talk honestly about myself on film. And I'm not reviewing the final commercial product.
When I mentioned this "potentially difficult" review to Jamy (my big brother here at the Genii review revue), he suggested that I get a guest reviewer to step in. As graceful as that escape route seemed, it didn't feel right to me. I'm going to state my honest opinions here, just as I would about any other video. That feels right to me. And hopefully to you as well .
•Lessons in Magic
Tapes 1, 2 & 3A-1 MultiMedia
$29.95 Per Volume Post Paid in the U.S.
This trio of videos is best viewed as a seta single unit.
Juan has much to say, and his theories are intertwined among the three videos.
Viewed separately, their impact is lessened as a teaching aid. As a whole, they form an excellent package. So I'm going to treat them as a single unit for the purposes of this review. You should consider them in this manner when deciding to purchase them.
All of the editing is sharp. The titles are fun graphics, with animated text floating out of Juan's hat and other locales. They are very easy to locate in search mode. The organization consists of a series of performances of effects followed by a series of explanations.
A standard two camera shot was used. Juan signaled close-up shots incredibly well. He knows cameras, and he knows angles. And he should. He has been on television more times than any magician that I know of. His expertise really shined during the filming.
Every important point is in frame. The angles range from tolerable to superb. I never felt that I missed anything. And there was only one moment where selected cards were not shown to the camera. Computerized graphics pop up to inform us of their identities. Personally, Iwould have shot the selections over afterward, and inserted a close-up of the cards into the original performance. This could be done seamlessly. Graphics popping up seem to be an ugly afterthought. Oh well.
I'm at a loss here. Since these are preview copies, I have no idea what the packaging will look like. I assume that they will be the type of full color cardboard "shell" box that seems to have become the standard for A-1's current line.
The tape quality is crystal clear. Of course, I'm probably viewing one generation off of the masters, so I would expect no less.
Mike Maxwell says that he will send me a final set of the tapes when they are done. At that time, I will update this score appropriately in a future column.
On The Set: 9
Shot on location at Casa Maxwell, the "set" looks fine. (Its really amazing what a good backdrop will do!)
The lighting is very good (and was very hot), and the atmosphere was lively.
The audience reactions ranged from good to excellent. Mike went out of his way to get a sizable audience of mostly laymen for Juan to play to. It was well worth the trouble. My only complaint here was the later shots had fewer audiences members, and it shows in the ambience.
The explanations are shot on the same set, with me sitting at the table with Juan. The premise of having the performer explain effects to someone other than the camera is a good one. It allows for some lively interaction. It is certainly better than an empty room for a confidant.
Of the fourteen items explained, all are original, either in presentation, method or both. And Juan's attention to detail brings new light to anything that he touches. The techniques he uses are simply wonderful.
Quantity vs. Quality: 9
Each tape is around ninety minutes long. They contain the following:
#1: Neither Blind, Nor Stupid (an impossible location of two hopelessly lost cards that is a true lesson in presentation); Follow The Leader (not only is the method superb, the presentation is drop-dead hilarious, and it clarifies the effect); Cards Across (two thought-of cards travel under conditions that would make instant believers out of the most hardened skeptic); and Caricature (a "magic card" changes three times, ends up with your caricature on it, and is able to be given away).
#2: The Secret of Magic (a cool optical illusion with a playing card becomes reality); Four of a Kind (three mistakes correct themselves instantaneously); El Cochecito (Juan's brilliant handling of the Koornwinder car); and Cannibals (all I can say is, "No meat, no bones, no meat, no bones"! Simply marvelous).
#3: Los Centauros (the most lyrical effect I've ever seen); Sticker (a nice transposition utilizing Juan's Staircase Change); A Number (a "named cards to pocket" mystery); Rising Card (a no-gaff miracle); Doubly Ambitious (Ambitious Card with twocards!); and Four Aces (a really, really, really funny four Ace assembly).
#3 also has a fine introduction to the Tamariz Perpendicular Control. It alone is worth the price of all three videos.
And spread throughout all of the tapes are Juan's wonderful theories on presentation, routining, construction, personality and emotions. Its all gold.
If you aren't fooled by the vast majority of these effects, then you either are already familiar with his material or you are fooling yourself. Period.
Entertainment Value: 9
To see him in action is to love him. In my humble opinion, Juan is one of the greatest magical showman on earth.
To date, no one has captured the real "Tamariz Experience"on film. Perhaps it can't be done. Maybe it shouldn't be. Its intangible. Its inexplicable.
Its walking down a magic rainbow and finding that mythical pot of gold, and realizing that its something that you've had in your heart all along. I don't know how to explain this emotionbut its real. Just ask anyone who has experienced Juan's full, live show. Its pure Magic.
Unfortunately, these tapes don't come anywhere near that. But they are the best ones done so far (at least in EnglishI think the best film of Juan is on his own television show in Spanish).
One other thing I should mention here is that Juan is an extremely energetic performer. By the end of the second long night of filming, he was running on empty. It is quite obvious in the later performances that he is lacking the spark that he normally has. He does an excellent job, but compared to the outstanding shows he began with, its a pity that they all couldn't have been that way.
Juan is a master of communication and it shows. He teaches details thoroughly yet lightheartedly. His examples are easily understood. His broken English is "bery bery eazy" to understand. His intention is always clear.
Its a pity I can't say the same for me.
Watching myself on the tapes pains me.
I can count dozens of moments when I should have spoken up, and many more when I should have remained silent.
But then, hindsight is always perfect.
Overall, I believe that I helped Juan more than I hindered him. And in the end, thats what really counts.
Overall Satisfaction: 10
The real reason these videos are going to be so well received, is the manner in which Juan imparts his love of magic. His performances tingle with a vibrant energy that you must experience for yourself.
If you don't expect to see him in a live performance anytime soon, then get these videos and study them.
Invite his magic into your hands, his theories into your head and Juan will find his own way into your heart.
You won't regret it.
My highest recommendation.
Final Score: 82
(of a possible total of ninety, due to the lack of packaging available at review time)
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