Svengali (1983)
©1983 Robert Halmi Inc.


Genre: Drama

Rating: NR (Television)

The movie opens with Zoe Alexander (Jodie Foster) in a hypnotic trance and a hypnotherapist (Ron Weyand) convincing her to quit smoking. The movie then cuts to Anton Bosnyak (Peter O'Toole), a music teacher trying to teach a woman with no talent to sing. Anton joins talent agent Eve Swiss (Elizabeth Ashley) at a small club to listen to Zoe sing with her boyfriend Johnny Rainbow (Larry Joshua) and his band. Anton is unimpressed with Johnny and the rest of the band but Eve convinces him that Zoe has some talent and he considers tutoring her. When Zoe learns that Eve is only interested in representing her, she initially declines but Johnny tells her that Eve's offer is a great opportunity and convinces her to accept. However, when Eve introduces Zoe to Anton, he is patronizing and condescending and Zoe walks out. Johnny isn't willing to let her give up so easily, though, and convinces her to give Anton another chance. The second meeting between Zoe and Anton goes only slightly better than the first but Zoe perseveres and Anton eventually agrees to take her as a student. Zoe, however, rejects Anton and, again, walks out. She goes home but finds Johnny sleeping with a woman he was interviewing to replace Zoe in the band (Holly Hunter). Leaving Johnny, Zoe movies in with her friend Trish (Pamela Blair) and returns to Anton, agreeing to let him tutor her. In the weeks that follow, Anton pushes Zoe relentlessly and the two of them argue repeatedly but they slowly learn to tolerate each other and perhaps even like each other. Zoe works hard and Anton protects her from Eve, who is anxious to present her to the world before she's ready. Finally, Anton decides that Zoe has learned enough and Eve sets up an audition with a pair of record executives (Robin Thomas and Brian Carney). With Anton by her side, Zoe wows the executives and is offered a recording contract. Unfortunately, in the studio, Zoe can't perform because Anton is stuck in traffic. Only when Anton finally arrives can Zoe sing. Back in Anton's apartment, Zoe announces that she wants to go to bed with Anton. Anton resists Zoe's advances but eventually succumbs to her charms and the two of them end up sleeping together. Soon after, Zoe moves in with Anton. One day, she is checking out her best-selling album in a record store and sees Johnny working behind the counter. Johnny pleads with her to give him a break and she says she'll see what she can do. Scheduled to go on tour, Zoe insists that Anton go with her, afraid she won't be able to sing without him. He reluctantly agrees but immediately calls Eve and says they need to meet. On the tour bus, Anton is surprised to discover that Johnny is a member of the band. On the night of Zoe's first appearance, Anton tells Zoe that he will be watching her from a box. Zoe goes on stage and performs flawlessly, occasionally glancing up at Anton in the shadows, but when she goes to the box after the performance she discovers the man watching her wasn't Anton. Zoe is furious and the two have a huge argument resulting in Anton returning home and Zoe continuing on the tour with Johnny. Anton becomes depressed and Eve tries to hook him up with another student but he insists in wallowing in his misery. Finally, Zoe returns home and announces to Anton that she doesn't love Johnny, she loves him. Anton admits he loves Zoe too but sends her away, saying she is now 'intact' and telling her to amaze him. The movie ends with Anton tutoring the young female student Eve had tried to set him up with when he was depressed.

Type of mind control: Hypnosis

Mind control scenes:
There is only one mind control scene in this movie at the very beginning when Zoe is hypnotized to quit smoking.

Subjective Rating: 1 out of 5
The only similarity between this movie and the other two of the same name is just the name. If you are interested in a movie about May-December relationships and the bond between student and teacher, this is the movie for you. If you want a movie with hypnosis, this isn't it.

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