BTRIPP (btripp) wrote,

Wow ...

Went off to see A Scanner Darkly tonight ... what a movie! Not that I'm saying that it's a "can't miss" film, but it is an amazing jump into the psychology of Philip K. Dick. Now, it's been a long time since I read the book, so I'm not 100% sure how true-to-source it is, scene-to-scene, but the "feel" of it is amazingly like the controlled slow-burn freak-out one gets in reading PKD's more extreme books.

Unfortunately, I think that this will have a very short life in the theaters ... it's only showing in "2nd tier" houses here, and at the Esquire over on Oak St. the theater wasn't even 20% full tonight for the 8pm showing, having just opened yesterday. I'm glad I got to see it, because I'm guessing it will be gone in a week or two.

Frankly, to really "get" the film, I think one has to either be a fan of Dick's writing, or familiar with the sort of drug psychosis/paranoia that is central to the story. The book came out when I was in college, and I had been a big fan all through highschool, so I'm probably not getting too far into She's Lost Control territory (i.e. "she gave away the secrets of her past and said ...") when saying that I found these depictions gripping, frightening, and very familiar. The "rotoscope" animation especially lent itself to this ... the whole movie lays out like a "graphic novel", but it's not done 100%, the less "in focus" things are, the less they're animated, some things (traffic on the freeway, edge-of-screen parts of rooms, etc.) are almost untouched whereas in-focus areas and close-up faces are almost like chalk portraits (see HERE for a sample).

The one thing that I was not "prepared" for was how they did the "scramble suits" ... I don't recall the details from the book, but what they had on the screen was not how I had envisioned them when I read it 25 or so years back. As I recall, the suits made the people just hard to see, but in this adaptation they were constantly shifting between parts of faces, bodies, clothes, jewelry, etc. ... a very distracting effect, but one that was probably based on what would work best with the animation style used.

Of course, the plot has all sorts of twists and turns, with something of a "surprise ending" (OK, a surprise if one didn't know the details of the book) ... and I won't even try to detail those ... suffice it to say the story is about a guy who is both and undercover cop assigned to try to break a drug operation, and one of the main suspects in that drug operation.

The casting was brilliant, Keanu Reeves makes his weakness a strength as the deeply confused protagonist, and Robert Downey Jr., Woody Harrelson, and Winona Ryder are brilliant as his associates. It's interesting that most of these folks have had "drug histories" and may have been involved in this project for the authenticity that their substance issues could bring to these roles. God knows that they reminded me of folks I knew at one time in my life!

I'd highly recommend A Scanner Darkly to anybody who appreciates Philip K. Dick's works, or who has "a history" with mind-altering substances. For other folks, you mileage may vary ... as Tim Leary pointed out, "the nature of the experience depends almost entirely on set and setting" ... and those without the right "set" might find this a very uncomfortable couple of hours!

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Tags: movie review
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