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Drugs in My Pocket: A Scanner Darkly

Posted by Omar / July 26, 2006


A Scanner Darkly is perfect for real cinema geeks (is there anything sadder than fake cinema geeks?). It’s got everything cinephiles love: art-house musings, literary cred (Philip K. Dick), super uber cool technique (rotoscoped animation ala Waking Life), mash up of filmic genres (pulp, detective, noir, sci-fi, road film), and quirky yet mannered performances from the likes of Robert Downey Jr,, Woody Harrelson and Rory Cochrane.

It doesn’t hurt that it’s directed by Richard Linklater. It’s got that distinct Linklater quality. Dazed. Confused. Full of slackers in waking lives. It’s ponderous, abstract, arty but kick ass in a cool American kind of way.

Ergo, you’ll probably like this film based on how much you like ponderous, abstract, arty but kick-ass-in-a-cool-American-kind-of-way type films. Personally, I was drooling on the way to the cinema.

Yet, when I walked out two hours later, I felt slightly (only slightly) let down. For sure, it was everything it was hyped to be: the most faithful adaptation of Philip K. Dick to hit the screen, a graphic novel come alive, a bleak dystopic world that comments slyly on our age of homeland security quite neatly.

Even Keanu Reeves was pretty good; doing his ‘everyman’ blank slate kind of acting that makes him blend into the film.

I’ve come to the conclusion that the film’s main flaw was an overzealous fidelity to the novel. Certain episodes that work well in the book come across as meandering and distracting to the main plot lines. A great adaptation has to have more going on that simply recreating a note for note filmic replica (Sin City, while gorgeous to watch has similar problems). Linklater could have kept faithful to Philip K. Dick’s tone, unlike Minority Report and Paycheck, while cutting back on the most tangential episodes (and rushing through his ending).

That would be my main criticism. That and Winona Ryder (it’s surprising that it is she who seems to have gotten worse since last working with Keanu in Dracula).

Nonetheless, the film is a cinematic feast. A stoner film that manages to effectively critique drug culture and the war around it and manages to question the fragile nature of identity at the same time. This is the film Ralph Bakshi(of Fritz the Cat, American Pop and Heavy Metal fame) should have made but never did.

Rating: 7(x)+3(y) out of 6 + [2(x+y)] if x=1 and y=2



Jer / July 26, 2006 at 07:20 pm
13 out of 36? I don't know. It doesn't sound like a very strong recommendation to me.

(yes, I did have to use a calculator. screw you.)
mike / July 26, 2006 at 10:40 pm
hmmm...i get 13 out of 12. which would mean that it must be really, really good.
omar / July 27, 2006 at 12:23 am
well, I was high when I formulated my calculations so it might not make actual sense - which of course is exactly the point for this kind of film. Therefore the correct answer is [13/36] + [13/12] = Pi.
Jer / July 27, 2006 at 11:25 am
Apparently calculators don't tell you the difference between addition and multiplication. Damn technology has let me down again.

I think the real point though is that we love your new ratings system, Omar. It's perfect for this po-mo, anyone-can-make-any-meaning-they-want-out-of-things world we live in.

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