Khoo’s work here is a gritty ‘freak show’ first, and a heartfelt drama second.
Dir. Eric Khoo
2008 | Singapore | Drama | 75 mins | Tamil, Hokkien & English
NC16 (passed clean) for some coarse language and disturbing scenes
Cast: Francis Bosco, Jathisweran, Seet Keng Yew
Plot: A single dad looks to give up drinking and his bartender job in order to impress his son and find work as a magician.
Awards: Nom. for Palme d’Or (Cannes)
International Sales: Wild Bunch
Subject Matter: Moderate/Slightly Disturbing
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse
I couldn’t really appreciate this when I first saw it in theatres back in 2008, but having revisited it nearly 11 years later, it is starting to grow on me.
My Magic is a film of many firsts. Most notably, it is the first ever Singapore film to be selected in the main competition of the Cannes Film Festival; it is also Eric Khoo’s first film primarily shot in Tamil, though there are semi-hilarious sprinkles of Hokkien, some fluently spoken by the lead protagonist as played by Francis Bosco.
He plays an alcoholic single father to a conscientious schoolboy, who is utterly disappointed by his broken family. Unbeknownst to the son, his father used to be a skillful magician, a performance artist if you will.
Singapore’s official submission to the 2009 Oscars for Best Foreign Language Film.
But these days, he has to resort to torturing himself in ‘freak shows’ to earn his keep so as to repair the fraught relationship with his son. It can be a difficult film to watch if you can’t withstand the sight of a human being piercing his tongue and chewing glass for the fun of it (and that’s just the tip of the iceberg).
Khoo goes for a gritty, underbelly style that fits the kind of ugly sideshow that Bosco’s character is forced to do. As much as it is a film that deals with the symbolism of physical torture (fans of Khoo may draw reference to his early 1994 short, Pain), My Magic ultimately appeals to sentiment and turns into a heartfelt drama that somehow works.