BUNKER VISION: The Magic Christian
Are You a Bored Billionaire?
You’re sitting at an art fair (on what you hope is a chair) while your spouse has another look around. They handed you a magazine before they left, and you’re already back here. You can afford anything in the place, but everything was covered in hold stickers when the doors opened this morning. “What,” you wonder, “could I do to get the attention of these people?” With an unlimited budget at your disposal, there must be something you can do. This is your lucky day. The column about artful moving images this issue is featuring a film that might answer that very question. Behold: The Magic Christian!
The premise of the movie is a simple one. Everybody has their price. As a framing device, an eccentric with loads of cash (Peter Sellers) adopts a homeless man (Ringo Starr) and proceeds on a course of more and more extreme actions that make this case. Not everything in the movie falls into the category of “try this at home.” The torture of a hot dog vendor falls squarely into the category of Douchebaggery. Causing a policeman to eat a parking ticket carries risks of a bribery charge. Bribing a team of venerated rowers to behave in a less than sportsmanlike fashion was probably funnier when people as a whole were more civil. One is left to look to the more elaborate actions as a model to proceed. Bribing a stuffy Shakespearean actor to strip during the famous monologue in Hamlet is a good place to determine the scale on which one needs to operate to make this fun for all. (Be certain to pick something stuffy enough not to be perceived as an avant-garde interpretation, or your bribes will be for naught). As tempted as you might be by the art auction that ends with the buyer cutting out “just the part they like,” you might wind up in the slammer (and banned from art fairs). It would be better to focus on the vat of offal into which is dropped large denomination bills with a bullhorn that blares: “free money.” There is also a splendid scene that involves how to behave in snooty restaurants.
But it is the luxury cruise on the ship that bears the movie’s title where one can find the most efficient means of humiliating one’s fellow fair- goers. Though it is never spelled out who is behind this must-attend launch, the sanguine attitude of the protagonists makes them a likely suspect for our purposes. The ship is actually a set in a warehouse. There is a galley of slave rowers, gorillas, transvestites, gay bodybuilders and even a vampire. Given that the film is almost 50 years old, one can find more shocking things to fill such a faux-voyage with today (a Google search for “transgressive artist” should do the trick). But won’t you be the belle of the next art fair when it leaks out that you were behind the “must attend” event where the joke is on your nemesis: “them”?