Magic Box, indeed

Lions & tigers & gold lamé codpieces

Siegfried And Roy: The Magic Box is no average documentary on a couple of queeny magicians.

Take the fashion of a 1984 Duran Duran video, the unintelligible imagery of Pink Floyd’s The Wall, the prancing of Riverdance, the earnestness of a new age infomercial and the stunning effects of a cinematic roller coaster. What do you get…? A 3-D romp into the lives of the world’s most successful live magical act.

Siegfried And Roy is a flowery film peppered with hokey dialogue about attaining one’s hopes and dreams. Don’t despair: For what it lacks in substance, it makes up for in style.

The duo are connected by a similar childhood, both born in Germany with families who were deeply affected by post-war trauma. Consequently, both boys grew up isolated and lost, turning to magic to escape their feelings of alienation. (Queer subtext anybody?)

The movie details their formative years in true melodrama. It’s almost unbearable to anyone even slightly cynical. But we get the point, their passion for illusion was born out of these feelings of loss, a spectacular dream come true for both men, who are still known in Vegas as “boys”.

Although both men are queer as queer can be to those in the know, they are quiet about their sexual preferences, choosing instead, to exclaim their appreciation for gay fans (“In show business, I found out that they [gay people] are always interesting, intelligent and good people. If I am an icon to them, it is wonderful because gay people are always very loyal,” Siegfried has said.)

Both deny any rumours they have ever been involved. But I ask you, when was the last time you saw a man wearing a gold lame codpiece and thought he was hetero-to-go? It seems most of the public don’t really care to know the personal business of the boys, accepting they are “entertainment people” and leave it at that.

The most interesting aspect of their ascension into glamour stardom, is their relationship to white tigers. On the grounds of their 100-acre estate, live 55 white tigers and 16 lions, who are shown swimming, sleeping, cuddling and play fighting with both men throughout the film.

Roy is the one who truly relates to the animals, as if he himself was one of them. “I am their guru, their guide to the world.” It is truly amazing to watch Roy interact with these magnificent creatures, with no fear and undaunting respect.

Once again, the cynic in me says: “What’s up with repressed queens and wild animals? One only has to refer to Michael Jackson’s personal zoo for another look at this phenomenon. The film offers no answer.

The film is intended to be a spiritual journey, but it left a lot of questions unanswered.


Despite their ability to pack ’em in to their live shows, Toronto movie-goers seem not to believe the hype; I was one of the eight or so others enjoying the Magic Box on a popular movie night.

But I can’t wait to see how many homos show up for the special fundraiser screening for the Inside Out film fest. Hundreds of queer folk wearing 3-D glasses…? Don’t ever take ’em off!

On film, the live illusions translate well in 3-D, leaving us to ooh and awe at the tigers seated seemingly on our laps. Without the stunning visuals, the film would have been like an incredibly long Mentos commercial. But it takes a lot for anyone to prove to me that live magic acts are anywhere near cool – and Siegfried and Roy definitely come close.

Follow your dreams, folks, and Vegas can be your man.

The Inside Out screening is at 7:30pm on Tue, Nov 23, with a party afterward at Fez Batik (129 Peter St). Tix are $10; call (416) 977-6847. The Magic Box continues till Dec 31 at IMAX Paramount (John and Richmond St).

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Culture, Arts, Toronto

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