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Writer-director Neil Burger follows his skillful debut feature, the pseudodocumentary thriller Interview With the Assassin (2002), with this spellbinding tale set in Vienna at the turn of the 20th century. Adapted from a Steven Millhauser story, it involves a mysterious magician (Edward Norton) and his amorous attachment to a duchess (Jessica Biel) who's coveted by the crown prince (Rufus Sewell). This lush piece of romanticism may seem antithetical to Burger's previous film, but both share a Wellesian integration of the viewer's imagination and an equally Wellesian preoccupation with power. Paul Giamatti, at his best, plays a police inspector who serves as an audience surrogate; the effective score is by Philip Glass. PG-13, 110 min. Century 12 and CineArts 6, River East 21, Webster Place.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): August 18, 2006.

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