That signature sleight-of-hand saying, “Now you see it, now you don’t,” takes on an added layer of significance with “Dealt,” a penetrating documentary portrait of master playing-card manipulator Richard Turner, who also happens to be blind.
As demonstrated in Luke Korem’s revealing film, winner of the Audience Award at this year’s South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, you wouldn’t readily know from Turner’s painstakingly rehearsed repertoire about his condition — and that’s how he’s preferred it.
The doggedly determined, notably fit 63-year-old was diagnosed with macular dystrophy as a child. He prefers to be called a “card mechanic” rather than a magician, and is never without a fresh deck of cards that he keeps clutched tightly in his hand, just one behavioral trait leading a colleague to observe that “he’s on the crazy end of obsessive-compulsive.”
That may be the case — Turner did name his attentive son Asa Spades, after all — and his stubborn force of will has yielded a 40-year career and a black belt in karate. But as keenly observed by Korem and cinematographer Jacob Hamilton, “Dealt” achieves the neat trick of giving its main subject a rewarding character arc.
Despite his life-long refusal to acknowledge his visual handicap, Turner finally, movingly, comes to terms with it, with the support of his family (including a sister who also lost her eyesight) and those 52 constant companions.
Running time: 1 hour, 26 minutes
Playing: Stavros Niarchos Foundation Parkway