“There are many close-up magicians in the world, but few, the consensus seems to be, are better than Burger.”

That’s what Bill Wyman concluded in a 1988 Reader feature profiling Eugene Burger, a world-renowned magician who lives in Chicago. 

Burger doesn’t work on stages large or small; he doesn’t have assistants. What props he needs he carries in his pockets or an ornate little briefcase the size of a cigar box. He works not before thousands but small groups–a couple sitting in a bar, a table for four at a restaurant, or even standing up, in front of half a dozen people at a private party. His performance space is the bar, a corner of the table, or a pair of hands held out flat.

Michael Caplan’s documentary about Burger, A Magical Vision, premieres Friday 9/12 at the Gene Siskel Film Center, followed by a Q&A.

When Burger is “on,” he has a way of tilting his head, beard down, and eyeing his victim or visitor or audience member, over the top of his glasses. When this happens, the beard, the domed head, and the dark eyes suggest drama, knowledge, and power. Secrets, too.

Another screening, a Magic Chicago presentation at City Lit on 10/30, features a live performance by Burger.