BLACK MAGIC FOR WHITE BOYS
Director, Writer: Onur Tukel
Cinematographer: Jason Banker
Editors: Martin James, Onur Tukel
Stars: Onur Tukel, Ronald Guttman, Leah Shore, Jamie Block
“I have a pill for that.”
Amidst gentrification woes in New York City and a surprise pregnancy, Black Magic for White Boys centers on Larry (Ronald Guttman, The Hunt for Red October, 27 Dresses): an aging magician who is willing to engage in the dark arts in exchange for monetary success and fame.
As we alternate between a group at a bus stop talking about rent spikes and other town gripes, the lovers Oscar (Onur Tukel, Applesauce, Richard’s Wedding) and Chase (Charlie LaRose, Results, 7 Chinese Brothers) talking through their options (i.e. more like him pressuring her to get an abortion and not giving her an option at all), and Larry performing the most fantastical magic shows, it becomes apparent how the stories are related on a figurative level. While seemingly disparate in tone, what ties these three narratives together is their concern with preserving their piece of New York. Each of the characters resist change in a world that is moving along with or without them.
However, it is also about much more than that. Larry the magician becomes an answer; a god of sorts. What if you could just make troublesome tenants disappear? What if you could vanish the baby in your girlfriend’s stomach with a few words? What if you could wave your cape and banish your significant other when they’re bothering you? And what if … you chose not to bring them back?
As unsettling as these questions are, Black Magic for White Boys doesn’t shy away from them. It tackles them head on, and it does so beautifully by filling the film with dark comedic tones rather than simply straight-up horror. There’s a relief to the darkness that comes in the quirkiness of the film itself, the diverse cast of characters, and the whimsical aesthetic.
Black Magic for White Boys succeeds in the way that it combines relevant political commentary, philosophical inquiry, and — well — black magic. It’s one of those films that shouldn’t work, but it does, and it manages to be a genuinely lovely, weird, satirical movie.
The cinematography has an “on-the-streets” low-budget appeal that really works for the film. And the quirky magic house combined with the mesmerizing classical music is wondrous. If there is anything amiss here, it’s that the acting is inconsistent. Some of the lines aren’t delivered with the sincerity in which other scenes are performed. It’s doesn’t occur frequently enough to detract from the film, but it does make the really great scenes stand out (e.g. the local “pharmacist” spending 10 minutes or so describing all his non-FDA-approved medications that cure anything to an interested buyer).
For fans of Tukel’s initial 4-episode series (2017) which he reworked with additional footage here and new viewers alike, Black Magic for White Boys will appeal to all with its delightfully disturbing take on very present concerns.
The Fantasia Festival runs from July 11 to August 1 in Montreal, Quebec. It showcases genre cinema from all over the world. Black Magic for White Boys was shown Friday, July 19, and Tuesday, July 23. For more information, check out their website.