Friday, February 9, 2018
An Honest Liar 2014 directed and produced by Justin Weinstein
There will be spoilers!
Odd that a documentary has spoilers but the one does.
This documentary documents the life of James Randi, otherwise known as the Amazing Randi. It goes lightly into his early life and career as a magician and escape artist but concentrates more on his activities as de-bunker of supernatural and religious claims.
His magic years could have been covered more, but as he was born in 1928, there is a lot of road to all over to get to present day. I was little disappointed at the repetition of the older photos They are great photos but show up several times each. I suppose this might be because of photo right issues which can up the cost of a production in no time flat.
Randi exposed noted faith healers like Peter Popoff and notably exposed the trickery of spoon bender Uri Geller who, to his credit is interviewed in this film and while not happy with Randi's interference in his career, he is still rich and seems to hold little animosity against the escape artist. They also cover the guilt some the people who helped expose these scams felt. Yes, the scammers were thieves and users, preying on desperate people but a few serious scientists were also convinced what they were doing was real and found out the guys they thought were going to give you place in history as the guy who proved supernatural powers exist are only there to show how gullible you are. To be fair, they were given all sorts of clues and ways to expose the debunkers and never did.
Randi's young boyfriend, José Alvarez was a key part in bringing to light the scam of the channeling craze in the 80s. The introduction of José becomes the new thrust of the documentary as during the filming it is discovered he has been living under an assumed name the whole time after escaping to the USA from South America as a teenager. I appreciated how all this was handled in the film. Randi is interviewed talking about how he knew of the deceit and demands that the filmmaker not expose that in the final cut of the film. To Randi's great credit, he reverses this decision and lets it all come out. (Speaking of which, many did not know Randi was gay until this incident.) This is actually the doc's big reveal, not the gay relationship but the immigration situation which was refreshing and not a little heart wrenching. After over 25 years together, they must face the idea they will be separated.
It's a good watch and while lacking in details, it is a very good resume of one of the world's best magicians. skeptics and takes a surprising personal turn that humanizes a man who spent his whole life in the spotlight.