A hole in the space-time continuum. (Notes by M.C. O'Connor.)
23 August 2009
I bought a Blu-ray player (a PS3!) and my first Blu-ray movie was Richard Linklater's A SCANNER DARKLY. Based on the 1977 novel of the same name by SF master Philip K. Dick, the film is notable for its use of rotoscoping, and particularly Flat Black Films' proprietary Rotoshop software. It would be a shame if that was the only memorable thing about this brilliant and engrossing movie. Set in a near-future world of total surveillance, undercover cop Keanu Reeves discovers that he has become the subject of his own investigation. The paranoia runs deep, and the layers of betrayal and double cross overlap and force him, ultimately, to question his own identity. The drug culture is dominated by a new scourge--Substance D--which gradually makes its users unable to distinguish reality from fantasy. The War on Drugs has enlisted a corporate partner--New Path--to provide incarceration and rehabilitation of the legion of D-junkies on LA's streets. The movie manages to be hilarious at times, like when the zonked-out druggies argue about whether a stolen mountain bike has 8, 9, or 18 gears, or when Robert Downey Jr. claims to have invented a pistol silencer, only to make the blast louder. Mostly, though, it's dark, like the title suggests. It has lots of noir elements, like the low-life characters and their aimless schemes, but it lacks noir's melodrama and brisk pacing. The colors and animation (like a filmed comic book) are gorgeous and perfectly suited to the futuristic setting. It is a highly unusual film, and not for everyone, but I found that it captured the sense of loss and devastation of the Dick novel, yet had a smart, contemporary take on the futility of drug politics and law enforcement. There's an ominous foreboding throughout the story, as if the truth about the state of things will be too great for any one person to bear. In the end, that spirit-crushing revelation comes as no surprise to our washed-up hero, yet he manages to find a shred of hope and still looks to the future for redemption. I think you should watch A SCANNER DARKLY.