The Society for the Appreciation of the Post-Dialogic Novel


-Film as Novel- 



The Blair Witch Project invokes a steady and persisent sense of unease in the viewer, and this is not entirely due to the horror-tingd subject matter. Strangely, it is reminiscent of the phenomenon some years ago of BruceSplringsteen's album Nebraska hitting the bestseller charts after humble beginnings on a cassette tape recorder in the singer's kitchen. This film has a similar origin, being shot on a shoestring VCR budget, and re-tooled for the big screen in a way disconcerting to those comforted by the standard high-tech sheen in Hollywood today. Ostensibly a documentary begun by neophyte filmmakers and later found in an unfinished state, it tells the story of their trek into a rural Maryland wilderness in pursuit of a legendary witch. The footage begins with the true video source, and only some time into the movie does the viewer become acclimated to the skewed images, shot almost entirely hand-held. The screen presence becomes dreamlike; all is shaky and rough, and for long stetches, entirely murky or black. There is a touch of intuitive genius in the sound montage, as we listen to the bickering and fright of the principles descending daily into confusion and madness. While no one aspect of the BWP blatently outshines the rest, all of the elements blend fortuitously and many obvious bad steps are avoided. It is not our fright, but the fright of the chatacters, that seems new. It feels--on the eve of digital technology and big budgets and mass boredom--like a small step forward has been made here. The companion website does a fine job at re-creating the movie experience, unlike many other film sites we've seen.

The Thin Red Line See our Feature

Shakespeare in Love (Spring 1999) A delightful fantasia upon the writer's life and sometimes the work. Don't expect fidelity to any authorized line, but the film is certainly true to the spirit of the Comedies and Romances, although it's hard to picture the playwright running quite this much. Very funny, full of inside jokes, and great sets. (Find the clue: Which Werner Herzog movie is tipped in the last shot?)

Saving Private Ryan (Fall 1998): America's ultimate craftsman produces the most horrific beginning to any war movie ever, a public service really, for an audience who must by now regard WWII as distant as the Civil War. As for depth, society members might want to keep an eye out for Terrence Malick's Thin Red Line.


now in video:

The Truman Show (Summer 1998) :   Rarely has public marketability and PostModernism converged so closely as in this new film directed by Peter Weir.  Jim Carrey portrays Truman Burbank, who comes in his 30th year to realize that his whole life has been staged as a television show.  Adopted at birth by a corporation, Truman learns what has been behind the hollowness of every relationship in his life: each significant other is actually an actor, even the father he believes himself to have caused to drown as a child.  The narrative's value lies not in the labyrinthine measures he must undertake to escape the community that has been designed to shell him, but in the ironies Weir wisely declines to overstate, creating an acute commentary upon the culture that devalues real relationships by the preponderance of corporate sponsorship.  A rare instance of balance between light-hearted watchability and a platform for reflection upon our deification of spoon-fed emotion ala television.

  Pi (Fall 1998): By all means recommended. A compelling structure/exploration on the relationship of numbers to religion and aestheticism. Stylistically a descendent of Eraserhead, the visuals are quite adventurous.

The Apostle (Spring 1998) : What a joy to have this narrative of an underexplored arena (one never shown without either deep or shallow irony) where deeply flawed characters are not pre-judged.  Robert Duvall's highly convincing portrayal of a fundamentalist preacher escapes all the cliches, and with amazing sleight of hand he creates actual sympathy for a man who almost accidentally kills another man.  This is probably the first movie since Flannery O'Connor's death that she would have approved of, namely because the Apostle (Sonny) has that rare blend of absolute obsession for divine order and an amazing ability to ignore his own human frailty (or limitations). Minimalist in execution, but never in feeling.


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Postscript:  Okay, about this Lolita thing. Anybody going to face up to the fact the Nabokov, a known trickster, didn't care that he was holding a mirror up to his audience? That tacking on a moralistic ending to a prurient excercise isn't enough? Doesn't anybody who holds this movie, or the first movie, or even the novel (anointed as a classic by no less than the Everyman's Library) to be an exercise in ART feel silly? If not, here's a secret: they should.

Postscript 2 : Has the bad aftertaste from Kevin Cosner's execrable The Postman had any lasting effect on the moviegoing public, or the sanctioning-poohbahs of Hollywood filmdom?   Okay, so in this post-apocalyptic American landscape this guy disguises himself as a postman who carries news from community to community, and becomes much loved by the poor wasted denizens.  So in this one place he comes across this idyllic couple, much in love, but alas, they cannot have a child.  So who gets picked to fill the lack?  Our reluctant hero!  Who, being very manly, resists as long as it's possible.  And he and the lady with the lacking but deeply loved husband nearly resist enjoying the encounter.  Further, when the marauding evil community-conquerer runs the the Postman off and slays the cuckolded husband and captures the seeded wife and beats her, what should her primary emotion be?  Sadness!! But not because he killed her husband, or because he beat her.  Sadness, because he was impotent with her!!!  This scenario, from a purveyor of American/family wholesomeness (albeit desperately looking for another big hit), is deplorable to the utmost.   Has it become impossible for the average moviegoer to have a coherent over-reaching thought about what these cute narrative twists actually add up to?  The film--as made, not necessarily conceived--should have never seen the light of celluloid, but at least, as they say, the audience "stayed away in droves."


An old Favorite: Apocalypse Now

Ingmar Bergman


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