Sunday, August 20, 2006

Fruitcakes

Dark, sinister conspiracies - preferably set in a dystopian near future - make great films, going right back to Fritz Lang's 1926 masterpiece Metropolis. The genre more or less disappeared in the 1940's and 50's, probably for the same reason that the gangster movie disappeared at the same time: the reality of Nazism and WW2 made such films seem trivial.

But in recent years the sci-fi conspiracy/dystopia picture has made a big comeback with Blade Runner, Minority Report, Total Recall and -of course- the vacuous but highly enjoyable Matrix trilogy. Now we have A Scanner Darkly, based (like the first three in that list) on a novel by the late Philip K. Dick. It's received rave reviews, not least because unlike previous adaptions of Dick's work, this film apparently pays attention not just to the technological gimmickry that sci-fi always temps fil makers with, but also the "philosophical dimensions of his work", the end result being (in the words of the UK Daily Telegraph's film reviewer Sukhdev Sandhu) "an elegy to a lost generation of drug casualties, an elegy to questers and dreamers and refuseniks".

So far so good. And the film is, apparently, shot as a conventional movie and then transformed into an animation through a process called 'interpolated rotoscoping', that means the actors Robert Downey Jr, Woody Harrelson, Winona Ryder and Keanu Reeves "retain their voices, but (are) turned into cartoon figures clearly resembling themselves yet becoming somehow dreamlike and abstracted" (Philip French in the Observer - UK: 20/08/06).

Sounds very promising doesn't it? And it was definately down on my list of 'must see' films, until I read the following, quite casually mentioned almost as an aside in Philip French's review: "...Linklater (Director Richard Linklater) and his collaborator, Tommy Pallotta, apparently feel the picture is especially relevant to te current American war on terror and that the US government actually perpetrated 9/11 in order to create a police state".

Now, generally I take the view that art can transcend the formal politics and even the sanity of its creators, to take on an autonimous existence of its own. Wagner was a magnificent composer despite his 'blood and soil' nationalism and anti-semitism, Philip Larkin was a great poet despite his Thatcherism and drunken racism, John Ogdon was a wonderful classical pianist despite serious mental illness, etc; etc. But when I hear that someone - an apparently well-educated, articulate, talented and sane film director - and his "collaborator", believe in all seriousness that 9/11 was the work of the US government "in order to create a police state", I really have to ask myself whether anything these two fruitcakes put out is worth spending my valuable time looking at and my hard-earned money paying for. The answer is a resounding "no".

2 Comments:

Anonymous Clive said...

I hadn't read that quote about Linklater's 9/11 views. And you don't get any sense of it from the film. I was worried whether the animated thing would be just a gimmick, and had heard it made the movie hard to watch. But actually, it doesn't, and it's narratively justified (I'm not sure it would be possible to tell the story without it).

The friend I saw it with, who is a Dick fan (I haven't read the book myself), thinks it is the most faithful adaptation of a book (by anyone) she's ever seen.

I thought it was pretty good. Robert Downey in particular, is fabulous.

So a case, I think, of art transcending the lunacy of the artiist(s).

8:09 PM  
Blogger stroppybird said...

I am planning to see the film this week. I have read quite a lot of OPhillip K Dick's book and am interested to see the adaption. The reviews say out of all the adaptions this one best captures his work.

I will just ignore that nonsense from the director. It is his interpretation of the film , but the film I expect is open to others and it shouldn't impinge on it.

12:53 AM  

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