Hidden in Plain Sight: An Archaeology of Magic and the Cinema (Techniques of the Moving Image)

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9780813572543: Hidden in Plain Sight: An Archaeology of Magic and the Cinema (Techniques of the Moving Image)
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What does it mean to describe cinematic effects as “movie magic,” to compare filmmakers to magicians, or to say that the cinema is all a “trick”? The heyday of stage illusionism was over a century ago, so why do such performances still serve as a key reference point for understanding filmmaking, especially now that so much of the cinema rests on the use of computers?
 
To answer these questions, Colin Williamson situates film within a long tradition of magical practices that combine art and science, involve deception and discovery, and evoke two forms of wonder—both awe at the illusion displayed and curiosity about how it was performed. He thus considers how, even as they mystify audiences, cinematic illusions also inspire them to learn more about the technologies and techniques behind moving images. Tracing the overlaps between the worlds of magic and filmmaking, Hidden in Plain Sight examines how professional illusionists and their tricks have been represented onscreen, while also considering stage magicians who have stepped behind the camera, from Georges Méliès to Ricky Jay.
 
Williamson offers an insightful, wide-ranging investigation of how the cinema has functioned as a “device of wonder” for more than a century, while also exploring how several key filmmakers, from Orson Welles to Christopher Nolan and Martin Scorsese, employ the rhetoric of magic. Examining pre-cinematic visual culture, animation, nonfiction film, and the digital trickery of today’s CGI spectacles, Hidden in Plain Sight provides an eye-opening look at the powerful ways that magic has shaped our modes of perception and our experiences of the cinema. 

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About the Author:

COLIN WILLIAMSON is a visiting assistant professor of film and media studies at Franklin and Marshall College, Lancaster, Pennsylvania. 

Review:

"Fresh and intriguing, Hidden in Plain Sight offers a wealth of fascinating historical information on the myriad ways and contexts in which moving images have evoked experiences of wonder from audiences. Williamson’s interest in the material is infectious." (Stephen Prince author of Digital Visual Effects in Cinema: The Seduction of Reality)

"In answering questions that date back at least a century in movie-making, Williamson looks at how movie magic has inspired people to learn more about the techniques and technology behind the images. " (Flicksided)

"Williamson’s superb book is a broadly conceived and thought-provoking reconsideration of the consanguinity of magic and moving images that obliges us to contemplate the special sense of wonder magic induces." (Matthew Solomon author of Disappearing Tricks and The Gold Rush)

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9780813572536: Hidden in Plain Sight: An Archaeology of Magic and the Cinema (Techniques of the Moving Image)

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