Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Aimless Reading: The D's, Part 25.4 (Philip K. Dick)


A Scanner Darkly
Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
Dick, Philip K.
A Scanner Darkly


Purchased at Talking Leaves...Books.

Richard Linklater is a frustrating filmmaker. After debuting with the highly overrated, yet nonetheless entertaining, "Slacker," he followed with one of the great high school coming-of-age comedies of the last two decades, "Dazed & Confused." It's been mostly downhill from there. I can't even watch "Before Sunset" and "After Sunrise" because of Ethan Hawke, but pretty much everything else he has made since "Dazed," except for maybe "School of Rock," has been a disappointment. His other Rotoscope film, "Waking Life," left me feeling like I'd been taken on a really slow roller coaster ride with no big hills.

When he's just trying to be funny and entertaining and perhaps moving, he's a fine filmmaker, but when he reachers for something more than that, he tends to get pretentious and his films begin to feel false, which I guess would be my main criticism of "A Scanner Darkly." (I think this also applies to Hal Hartley since about 1995, sadly).

This book and its movie adaptation together prove that just because a filmmaker has his own vision he must necessarily turn that vision into a successful film. It also proves that being too faithful to a book when you are making a film adaptation is in general not a good idea. It also proves that animation is not a "vision" for a film but rather a medium for telling a story.

A Scanner Darkly is one of the most interesting of Dick's novels, yet Richard Linklater's adaptation (in Rotoscope animation) is, to put it mildly, a complete failure. This, despite the fact that the film stars the great Robert Downey Jr., who is capable of rescuing even the most debased film from total failure just by being on the screen. Maybe RD's magic doesn't work in Rotoscope.

Nonetheless, because of "Dazed & Confused," I always want Richard Linklater to succeed and I always go to see his films (unless they start Ethan Hawke).

from A Scanner Darkly

Once a guy stood all day shaking bugs from his hair. The doctor told him there were no bugs in his hair. After he had taken a shower for eight hours, standing under hot water hour after hour suffering the pain of the bugs, he got out and dried himself, and he still had bugs in his hair. A month later he had bugs in his lungs.

Having nothing else to do or think about, he began to work out theoretically the life cycle of the bugs, and, with the aid of the Britannica, try to determine specifically which bugs they were. They now filled his house. He read about many different kinds and finally noticed bugs outdoors, so he concluded they were aphids. After that decision came to his mind it never changed, no matter what other people told him...like "Aphids don't bite people."

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