To call City of Cards the best magic special of the year misses the mark. It is more than that. In this stunningly original 32-minute creation, available to stream here on July 27, the Armenian American writer, filmmaker, and magician Garin Hovannisian invites you into an absolutely original experience – a masterpiece of modern magic.
For starters, City of Cards is a highly entertaining travel show. If you haven’t visited Yerevan, Armenia – and odds are you haven’t – then you will want to watch this. Not since Anthony Bourdain visited in Parts Unknown has a tour guide of such charisma and passion offered you a ticket to this spectacular and ancient place. Hovannisian takes you all across the city, from Republic Square to Liberty Square to the majestic Cascade, where he memorably reveals a never-before-noticed secret about the statue of Alexander Tamanyan, the founding architect of the city.
Add to this, though, the fact that City of Cards is a mind-blowing magic special. Because Garin Hovannisian isn’t just taking you on a tour of Yerevan. He’s performing original magic tricks and illusions inspired by the city itself. After the magician has his coffee cup read by his old friend Mrs. Maya, for example, he proceeds to read his audience’s fortunes – both in their coffee cups and on their foreheads. (The Armenian word for destiny is chakatagir,meaning “the writing on your forehead.) Meanwhile an ongoing thread about Noah’s Ark and its landing on the Armenian mountains of Ararat builds to an intense finale involving the most exciting demonstration of hypnotism ever seen on screen. As a magician, Garin Hovannisian is spellbinding – and positioning himself to be a worthy successor to such figures as David Blaine and Derren Brown. City of Cards is an exhilarating blend of magic, hypnotism, and film. You will be spellbound from the first frame to the last.
Most importantly, though, City of Cards is a highly original work of art. Hovannisian, who wrote, directed, and edited the film – in addition to starring in it – is bringing together his strengths as a writer and filmmaker, in addition to his new role as magician. In this endeavor, he has support from his long-time creative team in Armenia. The brilliant Armenian cinematographer Suren Tadevosyan provokes light with shadow as he brings a mystic and filmic quality to the film. Meanwhile composer Van Sarkissian, a rising talent, provides an eclectic score, alternating between classical and cutting-edge. Producer Alec Mouhibian, the brilliant and dazzling force behind Filthy Armenian Adventures, produces alongside associate producer Anush Ter-Khachatryan. This is why the poster of City of Cards identifies itself not as a “magic special,” but rather a “magic film.” You simply must submit to its charm and agree to be spellbound.
Viewers who wish to stay in touch with Garin Hovannisian’s magic can subscribe to his ongoing series of ideas and illusions called Magic Stories. Released regularly to his subscribers, each episode of the series includes a letter and an original filmed illusion. Some episodes are poetic, others philosophical, and others still political. But each episode of Magic Stories is a gem of modern magic. The letters are profound. The illusions are beautifully staged. Magic Stories is an unlikely fusion of magic, poetry, and philosophy. And Garin Hovannisian is a master storyteller – inviting us into his secret world of magic and beauty.
An early look at Hovannisian’s upcoming short film Nowhere only confirms Hovannisian’s ambitions. A brilliant blend of magic and film, Nowhere is a major vision of our times – a twisted fairytale you will never forget. Catch it at its LA premiere at the LA Shorts International Film Festival here.
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