It helps to know the story of Simon Magus going into Simon The Magician, the latest film from Hungarian director Ildikó Enyedi (My Twentieth Century). Accounts vary, but most have the original Simon, generally considered the first Gnostic, traveling to first-century Rome to challenge St. Peter to a sorcerer's duel, then meeting defeat either by falling from the sky or by foolishly asserting that, like Christ, he could be buried and rise again three days later. In Enyedi's film, Péter Andorai plays a modern Simon, or, more precisely, a millennial Simon whose adventures in 1998 Paris—Enyedi is specific about the date—bookend the past 2000 years. "Adventures" may not quite be the right word. Andorai's Simon, a psychic from Budapest, comes to Paris not for a challenge, but in answer to a police summons requesting his help in solving a crime. But such matters don't really interest Enyedi, or even Andorai, who arrives at a solution after napping by the outline of the body for the better part of an afternoon. The director seems to delight in confounding expectations. When Andorai encounters his Peter (Péter Halász), a vain, shaven-headed Bentley owner, they spend most of their time hanging out together, comparing interests, and eventually getting on each other's nerves. Andorai has a hard time returning Halász's demand that he prove his wizardly mettle, especially when a bright-eyed Parisian (Julie Delarme) polling uninterested passersby about religious practices offers a different sort of challenge. Occasionally, the film become more interesting to think about than to watch. The first time Enyedi shows Andorai strolling about Paris to the strains of Bartók, the mixture of end-of-the-millennium bustle, the sight of a powerful magician in casual dress clothes, and the grandiose music plays as clever. The second and third times, it's less so. Enyedi always has her dry wit to fall back on, however, and in the end she has even more. Her exploration of the end of eras culminates in an unexpected romantic gesture that rewards patience with what's come before.
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