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John S. Ryan "Scott Ryan" (Cuyahoga Falls, OH)

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The Role of Religion in History
The Role of Religion in History
by George Walsh
Edition: Hardcover
Prix : CDN$ 55.95
16 used & new from CDN$ 3.41

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2.0 étoiles sur 5 Sloppy, flippant, and misleadingly titled, July 2 2004
[This is a reposting of a review I submitted a few years ago.]
George Walsh's _The Role of Religion in History_ was touted, upon its publication, as the first major Objectivist work on religion. I rather hope it's the last.
In the first place, this book suffers from extremely poor editing. That may not Walsh's fault; the book is assembled from his lectures, and I gather from other sources that the state of his health may not have permitted him to do his own transcribing and editing. Still, it's a very patchy job by whoever _did_ do it -- with jarring shifts into informality, odd grammatical constructions, and annoying repetitions of major points.
There are also errors that somebody didn't catch. For example, on p. 182, while trying (sloppily) to maintain (incorrectly) that the Kantian notion of 'duty' exemplifies 'the Judeo-Christian ethic', Walsh refers to W.D. Ross's _Foundations of Ethics_ -- but calls it _The Principles of Ethics_. A small complaint, perhaps, but this is not the only such blunder.
In the second place, the book's title has little to do with its content. There's hardly anything here about the role of religion in history; the book is little more than a summary of what the major religions are about, as construed from a (more or less) Objectivist point of view.
In the third place, it's far from clear why anyone would care what Objectivists think of religion, any more than one would care what tone-deaf people think of music. What could Objectivism possibly have to say on this topic?
Very little, it appears. Objectivism, we recall, is the philosophy of Ayn Rand -- who denied that the well-being of people other than oneself is in any way a direct source of normativity; insisted that Christianity demands the 'sacrifice' of greater values to lesser ones; and objected to God on the grounds that His existence would pose an insurmountable obstacle to man-worship. One would expect a discussion of religion from such an outlook not to be especially enlightening.
And one would be right. Here, from the very first page, is Walsh's definition of religion: 'a system of beliefs and practices resting on the assumption that events within the world are subject to some supernatural power or powers such that human needs, either physical or psychological, can be satisfied by men's entering into relations with such powers' [p. 3]. I shall leave it to the reader to deal with this definition, but by my lights it exemplifies what Rand herself would have called definition-by-nonessentials.
Now, granted, Walsh goes considerably farther than many Objectivists -- this isn't saying much -- in at least trying to understand the views of non-Objectivists; indeed that's probably what got him ejected from the movement in the first place.
But apart from some sketchy history, Walsh never really comes to grips either with religion itself or with its influence on history or philosophy. Oh, there is a bit of elaboration on the views of this or that religious tradition and some interesting discussion of the occasional philosopher. But when it is all boiled down, it doesn't tell us anything we can't learn better elsewhere. And importantly, Walsh doesn't even present arguments for the Objectivist dismissal of religion; apparently he simply assumes that the reader knows those arguments and agrees with them.
The book really adds little to the Objectivist view of religion with which we're already familiar from Rand herself (and Leonard Peikoff's nasty piece 'Religion In America', reprinted in _The Voice of Reason_). In the final analysis, Walsh takes 'religion' to be based on what Rand called the 'primacy of consciousness' as opposed to the 'primacy of existence' -- and I say 'opposed' advisedly, as Objectivism takes these two as representing a genuine dichotomy. (I argue in my own book that they do not; Rand's 'arguments' on this point are question-begging, self-serving, and just plain wrong.)
In general, then, this book is a sermon written for the choir, and not a very good one at that. It's not so much that Walsh's 'insights' are always mistaken (though they are questionable at times, and rarely very penetrating even at their best); in fact I cited Walsh's book myself in an article I wrote a few years ago (on the role of reason in Judaism). It's that even when they're right, they're usually presented carelessly and even flippantly, as though Walsh is simply poking fun at his subject in the company of people he knows will agree with him.
Some of this is just the informality-of-tone problem I mentioned above -- but not all of it. Even with competent editing, the problem would remain; a good deal of this dismissive, epistemologically-holier-than-thou snideness is just built in to the philosophy itself. Since Objectivists already (think they) _know_, on the basis of Rand's footless arguments, that 'religion' is just wrong from scratch, all that really remains to be discussed is how in the world people could be so silly. This sort of village-atheist condescension is hardly likely to impress anyone with the scholarly profundity of the Objectivist movement. (Nor is Walsh's little teeny tiny 'bibliography', which includes exactly 22 items, about a quarter of which seem to have been culled from the late Gordon Stein's Rolodex.)
This book is therefore not recommended as a source of information about religion; for that, Huston Smith's _The World's Religions_ already exists and is far, far superior to the present volume. (And it is _a fortiori_ not recommended as a source of information on its nominal topic.) But as a source of Objectivist _views_ of religion, it might come in handy.
The amazing thing is not, of course, that tone-deaf people write _good_ books about music. It is that they have sufficient hubris to write on the topic at all -- let alone to claim, on the basis of their tone-deafness, that there is no such thing as harmony.

Hippie Dictionary: A Cultural Encyclopedia of the 1960s and 1970s
Hippie Dictionary: A Cultural Encyclopedia of the 1960s and 1970s
by John Bassett Mccleary
Edition: Paperback
Prix : CDN$ 18.73
22 used & new from CDN$ 6.72

5.0 étoiles sur 5 Farther out, June 2 2004
I reviewed the first edition of this book on 27 August 2002 (about ten reviews down), so click through if you want to read what I originally wrote. This review is for the second edition.
Here's all I'll say about the content: the revised and expanded edition, just like the first, is an extended argument for keeping The Dream alive. If, like me (and, obviously, John Bassett McCleary), you know there was something more to 'the Sixties' than a bunch of kids getting stoned and having sex, then you'll appreciate this book not only as a reference but as a 'tickler file' for your psyche.
The main thing is, what's new in _this_ edition? Well, there are about fifty more pages of text. (The official page count has risen from 663 to 704. But the page numbering has also been adjusted: the entries. which used to start on page 12, now start on page 1 and the forematter is numbered with lowercase Roman numerals. By my count that's an increase of 52 pages.) As you'd expect, some entries are new and others are longer than they used to be.
But probably the most important thing for you to know is that McCleary and/or his editor (Joan Jeffers McCleary) have gone over the earlier edition carefully and fixed the errors that have been noted in some of the earlier reviews of this book. There was, for example, some extraneous material included in the very first entry ('A'); now it's gone. The others -- all the ones I know about, anyway -- have been corrected.
The McClearys deserve a big round of applause for the quick turnaround time. (The first edition is only two years old.) In my original review I rather unwillingly deducted maybe half a star for that stuff; it was obviously the result of deadline pressure, but this is still a reference book and factual mistakes count. In this review I'm happy to give the half-star back.
Everything else I said in my earlier review still applies. As McCleary writes, our society threw the baby out with the bathwater in rejecting hippie ideals; what's most important here is to recognize the 1960s as a period of _experimentation_. Anybody who wants to devote some thoughtful attention to the results of those experiments will find plenty to think about in this book. There's a lot here, but there's nothing you need to 'believe' -- just take it seriously enough to let it roll it around in your mind for a while.
With this edition a cool book has gotten cooler. Don't miss it.

12 Monkeys (Collector's Edition) [Import]
12 Monkeys (Collector's Edition) [Import]
DVD ~ Bruce Willis
Offered by thebookcommunity_ca
Prix : CDN$ 49.35
36 used & new from CDN$ 0.78

5.0 étoiles sur 5 Very cool, June 1 2004
This is not only one of Terry Gilliam's best movies but one of the finest time-travel films ever made. The story is great -- and in its logical tightness, it's right up there with the first _Terminator_ film (and the classic Heinlein stories 'By His Bootstraps' and _The Door into Summer_).
The casting is amazingly good for 1995. Remember, this was before Bruce Willis was known as anything but a wisecracking action hero, and Brad Pitt hadn't yet turned into a national obsession (he'd already been cast in this one before _Interview with the Vampire_ and _Seven_ were released). In fact, when I first watched this film, I thought Pitt had been horribly miscast -- but it turned out I was wrong, as repeated viewings demonstrated. (Madeleine Stowe is terrific as well but that was no surprise then or now.)
You probably already know the premise. James Cole (Willis) is a convict in 2038, and in exchange for a complete pardon he 'volunteers' for a time-travel mission. In 1997, see, most of the human race was wiped out by a really nasty virus, and the scientists of Cole's day want him to go back in time and collect some samples of it so they can get cracking on a cure. But something goes wrong . . .
That's all I'll say, except to note that everything gets neatly wrapped up at the end. (And I mean everything. If you think there are loose ends, watch it again.)
The screenplay is the work of David and Janet Peoples, so it's no surprise that it's well done; David Peoples was one of the writers on _Blade Runner_ (and he also wrote _Soldier_, which is set in the same world as _Blade Runner_). The dialogue is crisp and the exposition clear and swift. (In fact, it's arguably _too_ good: the film is supposed to be, in the beginning at least, ambiguous as to whether the time travel stuff is just Cole's schizoid fantasy, but thanks in large measure to the convincing screenplay, most of us know from the start that it's the real thing.)
Of course it's Gilliam who brings all this together. If you've seen _Brazil_, you've probably already seen this one too -- but if you haven't, see both.

Pi (Widescreen)
Pi (Widescreen)
DVD ~ Sean Gullette
Prix : CDN$ 11.73
53 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 étoiles sur 5 A disturbing portrait of . . . well, something or other, May 29 2004
This review is from: Pi (Widescreen) (DVD)
Since I just recently reviewed director Darren Aronofsky's sophomore effort, I figured I might as well review this one too.
I like it a lot myself, but it won't be for all tastes (even for all who like _Requiem for a Dream_). It's bizarre in all the right ways, but if you don't like things a little surreal, you won't care for this film.
The setup is simple enough: Max Cohen (Sean Gullette) is looking for 'patterns in pi' -- the famous transcendental number that represents the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter and that (like Euler's number e) keeps cropping up all over the place in mathematical investigations of pretty much everything. Max is convinced that if he could grok that pattern (and through it, the underlying pattern of all of nature), he'd be able e.g. to predict the ups and downs of stock prices.
Is he a 'mathematician'? Hardly. We do see some evidence that he's a lightning calculator, but -- despite some brief references to actual mathematics here and there -- Max's own 'investigations' look like the same sort of nonsense long perpetrated by pseudomathematical cranks. He's also subject to really nasty migraines that send him careening into hallucination. And yet -- his mentor Sol (Mark Margolis) suggests that at one time Max _was_ a promising and even brilliant mathematician, and at one point Max's stock market predictions appear to be uncannily accurate.
Overall, though, Sol is on the mark when he implies that Max has gone in for numerology. Somebody else thinks so too, and regards that as a good thing: Lenny Meyer (Ben Shenkman), a Hasidic Jew who is investigating number patterns in the Torah in order to discern the Name of God. He gloms onto Max and starts teaching him not only about Torah observance (there's a nice scene where the two of them put on tefillin and start to recite the Shema) but also about Kabbalah -- specifically Hebrew numerology, a.k.a. gematria, although the film doesn't use that word. (The gematria stuff is accurately presented but, again, the math is not; at one point Max suggests -- and a rabbi appears to agree -- that the Hasidim have actually tried intoning the phonetic equivalents of every single possible 216-digit number, a feat that, with a hundred people at a time each intoning one name per minute, would have taken them on the order of ten-to-the-208th-power years.)
There's also some corporate entity after Max's secrets as well. So Max, whose 'research' looks to be nothing more than sheer crankery, is nevertheless at the center of a whirlwind of conspiratorial activity for some reason. Is it because he's really onto something? Or is this all just -- a la _Foucault's Pendulum_ -- an echo of Eco?
You probably won't be sure of the answer to that question even _after_ watching the movie -- even after watching it repeatedly. At least, after nunerous viewing myself, _I_ still don't know exactly what's supposed to have transpired here. But some people (like me) enjoy that in a movie. (At any rate, the internal resolution of Max's distress works out about the same way on any interpretation of the external events.)
The film was produced on a budget of, I think, about a dollar and eighty-seven cents, so don't be looking for ILM-level special effects here. The whole megillah is brilliantly shot in grainy black and white and backed with a spare, disturbing score by Clint Mansell. Gullette pretty much carries the entire film, with the help of an excellent but very small additional cast.
This is, in short, the sort of thing you'll like if you like this sort of thing. It's pretty gonzo and probably not for everybody.

Timeless Stories for Today and Tomorrow
Timeless Stories for Today and Tomorrow
by Ray Bradbury
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
12 used & new from CDN$ 6.25

5.0 étoiles sur 5 A great and haunting collection, May 29 2004
When Ray Bradbury edited this collection, he tried to select fantasy stories written by authors who didn't ordinarily write fantasy. (That's why you'll find e.g. John Steinbeck, John Cheever, and E.B. White represented in it.) He also favored stories that hadn't already been anthologized.
His primary criterion, though, was that each story be a certain sort of fantasy written to a high standard of quality. As he states in his introduction, he was looking specifically for stories that 'show[] us the unreality of reality' and 'entertain us with our precarious state of equilibrium'. The fantasies he therefore chose are some of the most _haunting_ tales that were available at that time.
The time was 1952, so quite a few more have been written since then. But Bradbury was right to call the stories 'timeless', and right also to regard them as stories for 'today _and tomorrow_'. For today, fifty-plus years on (and thus well past 'tomorrow' by the usual standards of the paperback publishing industry), I still have a copy of this marvellous collection and I am still haunted by the same stories that haunted me some thirty-odd years ago (when I first read it).
Robert M. Coates's opening story, 'The Hour after Westerly', is one of those. There's nothing overtly 'supernatural' or 'fantastical' about the tale at all; it's a simple and straightforward account of an odd memory lapse suffered by Davis Harwell as he drives from Providence RI to New Haven CT -- the sort of thing that happens to all of us all the time. And there isn't even really a 'resolution' in a traditional sense; as the story closes, the truth sits out there somewhere in the murkiness, tantalyzingly beyond grasp. And to this day I've still read very few short stories that have hovered around the edges of my mind for so long afterward. (Another is George R.R. Martin's '". . . for a single yesterday"' -- anthologized in _Epoch_, which you will probably also like if you like this collection.)
All the stories are of similar quality. Oh, not all are equally haunting; my other personal favorites in this respect include Sidney Carroll's _None Before Me_, John Keir Cross's _The Glass Eye_, and John B.L. Goodwin's _The Cocoon_, and your mileage may vary. But Bradbury exercised exquisite taste here -- even having the wit to include Franz Kafka's _In the Penal Colony_, which at that time had been available in English translation for only about three years.
This collection really is timeless. If it sounds interesting to you, scare up a used copy; you won't be disappointed.

No Title Available

5.0 étoiles sur 5 Better than it has any right to be, May 28 2004
Sara Goldfarb (Ellen Burstyn) is going to be on television -- so, needing to lose a little weight in order to fit into her nice red dress, she starts a regimen of diet pills. Meanwhile, her son Harry (Jared Leto) keeps hocking her TV to buy drugs for himself, his girlfriend Marion (Jennifer Connelly), and his friend Tyrone (Marlon Wayans). And from there, everything pretty much spirals downward to hell.
_Requiem for a Dream_ is based on the book of the same name (which I haven't read) by Hubert Selby, Jr. (who also cowrote the screenplay and makes a brief cameo appearance as the 'Laughing Guard'). Essentially, it's a harrowing study of addiction and its effect on hope. Although the film's primary focus is on drugs, other objects of addiction (television, sex, even food) take turns in the spotlight. And it's all pretty grueling. (Parts are darkly comic at the same time, as when Sara has to sneak into the room so as not to arouse her hungry refrigerator.)
With a lesser cast, or with any more self-conscious moralism in the screenplay, it would have toppled off of its highwire and turned into just another Special Episode of 'Blossom'. And with even a _little_ more of its already-overused nerve-jangling speedy-uppy-slowy-downy Technique-with-a-capital-T, it would have toppled over in the other direction and become just another pretentiously arty soap opera.
And that would have been a disaster. The topic itself isn't exactly new; what else could there possibly be to show us about it that we didn't see years ago in e.g. _Lost Weekend_ and _The Man With the Golden Arm_ and _Valley of the Dolls_ (never mind _Reefer Madness_ and _The Cocaine Fiends_)? Had this devolved into just another film in an already overloaded genre, it wouldn't merely have failed; it would have crashed and burned.
But it manages, somehow, to work. As I suggested above, a lot of the credit has to go to the cast; Ellen Burstyn is by God magnificent, and the three younger leads bring life to a trio that could easily have cliched itself into a sort of bizarro prequel to 'The Mod Squad'. Credit also goes to the appropriately jagged score by Clint Mansell (much of it performed by the Kronos Quartet).
The lion's share, though, goes to director Darren Aronofsky (who was also the other cowriter of the screenplay). With nearly anybody else, I'd suspect a desire to impress the world by making his second movie an Idiosyncratic, Shocking, Yet Deeply Significant Work of Art. But that suspicion doesn't really make sense applied to a guy whose _first_ movie was _Pi_. (This one is actually somewhat _less_ gonzo than that one.) Appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, Aronofsky has his craft under careful control.
Overall, then, this is a much, much better movie than it has any right to be. There's nothing really new in it; it's right on the edge of unbearably preachy (and on a relatively uncontroversial subject; does anybody think addiction is _good_?); it's got a strong flavor of deliberate 'art-housiness', if you know what I mean. But much to my surprise, it succeeds anyway, and somehow its characters manage to become sufficiently real for us to care about them even while they're totally screwing themselves up.
It's not cheerful, it's not pretty, it's not even easy to watch. But I'm impressed enough to watch it again. I may even read the book.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go have some coffee.

Underworld (2-Disc Unrated Extended Cut) (Bilingual) [Import]
Underworld (2-Disc Unrated Extended Cut) (Bilingual) [Import]
DVD ~ Kate Beckinsale
Offered by Warehouse105
Prix : CDN$ 29.98
34 used & new from CDN$ 0.75

3.0 étoiles sur 5 It's okay . . ., May 28 2004
. . . but it doesn't live up to either its hype or its pretensions.
It wants to be _The Crow_. It wants to be _The Matrix_. It wants to be _Blade_. It wants to be _Dark City_. It wants to be _Lara Croft: Tomb Raider_. It wants to be the Next Great Vampire/Werewolf Movie. And it isn't any of them.
What it _is_ is a pretty good (and fairly novel) film in the gothic-horror genre. But that's all it is.
The idea here is a perfectly good one. Kate Beckinsale is Selene, a vampire who hunts 'Lycans' (werewolves, from 'lycanthropes'). Apparently there's been a war between these two species for lots of centuries, and there's a human being (Scott Speedman) who has something or other to do with a recent burst of Lycan activity.
The whole thing is fairly well handled (including the special effects), and it's at least fun to watch even if the characters are rather one-dimensional. If you want to see a sorta-PoMo/SF-inflected leather-and-guns goth wetdream, this is a good choice. It even bears up pretty well under repeated viewing.
But you'll be disappointed if you expect it to be everything it's been billed as. It ain't. The look is excellent and the production values are high, but it's mostly surface gloss: there is, let's say, a high style-to-substance ratio.

Cube (Widescreen) [Import]
Cube (Widescreen) [Import]
DVD ~ Nicole de Boer
Offered by importcds__
Prix : CDN$ 11.80
21 used & new from CDN$ 7.22

6 internautes sur 6 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Premise: A+; execution: B+/A-, May 28 2004
This review is from: Cube (Widescreen) [Import] (DVD)
What a great concept. A handful of people awaken to find themselves trapped inside a bunch of cubical rooms, connected by doors in each of the six faces. They have no idea where they are or how to get out, but since they have no food or water, they need to find out fairly quickly. But some of the rooms contain deadly booby-traps, and nobody knows how to tell which ones they are. Turns out all the rooms form one giant cube; nobody knows exactly why anyone wanted to construct such a complicated, useless, and potentially deadly piece of machinery -- let alone why anybody would deliberately put _people_ in it . . .
This premise would have been at home on the old 'Twilight Zone' series (or even on the original 'Star Trek', with the trapped parties being Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scotty, and 'Crewman Green'). And ya don't gotta be Kafka to smell the allegory; at any rate, if _your_ life has never felt like this, you probably won't like the movie.
The execution is very good too. Obviously a film like this requires a small ensemble cast and a script that manages to keep things interesting for an hour and a half even though all the 'action' takes place inside a series of practically identical cubical rooms. It has both. I won't spoil anything here, but there are some genuinely suspenseful moments and there's a lot of excruciating _psychological_ tension. (And not just from claustrophobia.)
I'm knocking off a star just because I just don't think the characters quite gel. They're interesting enough, but they're neither sufficiently complex to keep me fully engaged with them nor sufficiently 'archetypal' to support the allegory. In some respects their characterization occasionally seems inconsistent.
Very cool movie, though, and the slightly weak characterization isn't much of a drawback. It's not at all a 'hopeful' film and the ending won't make you gasp with moral relief; nor will all that many of your questions get answered. But if (like me) you enjoy that sort of movie, you'll especially enjoy this one.

Donnie Darko (Widescreen) (Bilingual) [Import]
Donnie Darko (Widescreen) (Bilingual) [Import]
DVD ~ Jake Gyllenhaal
Offered by Planet Video
Prix : CDN$ 16.53
38 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 étoiles sur 5 'Donnie Darko'? Sounds like some kind of superhero, May 26 2004
This brilliant film didn't make much of a splash in the U.S. when it appeared in theaters. On DVD, though, it's getting the attention it deserves.
Which makes sense, really; it's not the sort of film you grok fully after one viewing. There's a lot going on here, and some of it isn't actually explained within the movie itself. (For the SF time travel/alternate universe skeleton on which the story is hung, you'll probably need to look online for excerpts from _The Philosophy of Time Travel_, a fictional book that figures prominently in the movie.)
The time travel bit is pretty well worked out, and this film would be a success purely as an SF film even if that's all it were. In its time-travel logic, it's not quite as tight as the first Terminator film, but it beats the heck out of _Timecop_.
But it's lots of other things too: a charming late-80s period piece (with lots of music -- including a gorgeous remake of Tears for Fears' 'Mad World' -- to satisfy anybody out there who happens to be nostalgic for the 1980s); a scorching satire of public education; a dark comedy about puberty, teen angst, and psychological disorders; a comeback vehicle for Katharine Ross and Patrick Swayze; and an extended parable the moral of which is that kids had better save themselves because adults are too screwed up to do the job. (First-time director Richard Kelly wrote the script.)
That's a lot of balls to keep in the air -- but, amazingly, the film succeeds in _every one_ of these aspects. Its success is due in no small measure to the mesmerizing performance of Jake Gyllenhaal in the lead role; he carries the entire film on his shoulders. His real-life sister Maggie is also delightful as Elizabeth Darko, and the adult Darkos (Holmes Osborne and Mary McDonnell) are a refreshing change of pace from the usual teen-film parents. Jena Malone, as Donnie's girlfriend Gretchen Ross, is well matched with Gyllenhaal (and this is the second time in five years that she's appeared in a movie with wormholes in it: she also played Jodie Foster's younger self in _Contact_).
The rest of the cast is good too -- especially Swayze, who camps it up as a smarmy self-help guru.
Oh, and there's the rabbit. If you're reading this page, you're surely aware that Donnie is visited by a human-sized bunny who persuades him to engage in odd behavior while he's sleepwalking. (You may be reminded of _Harvey_ at this point, but director Richard Kelly says he wasn't thinking of that film at all.)
If you haven't seen this movie yet, you may be thinking that a film in which a teenaged boy is visited by a giant rabbit cannot _possibly_ work. I guarantee you you'll be pleasantly surprised once you actually watch it; this one is every bit as good as you've heard it is. In its way it's every bit as mind-blowing as David Lynch's _Mulholland Dr._ -- but with a gentler, lighter touch, a fine sense of humor, and, in its way, a more hopeful message (though every bit as dark as Lynch).
It's being rereleased in theaters in an extended 'director's version', but the current DVD includes about twenty deleted scenes that will presumably constitute at least a lot of the additional footage. If you want to see what you've been missing, grab this one while it's still available; if a director's-cut CD is ever released, you can buy it too. And you'll probably want to.

Mulholland Drive (Sous-titres français) [Import]
Mulholland Drive (Sous-titres français) [Import]
DVD ~ Naomi Watts
Prix : CDN$ 20.64
21 used & new from CDN$ 1.48

5.0 étoiles sur 5 No hay banda, May 13 2004
If you haven't seen this movie yet, you won't be the same until you do.
I'm not the biggest fan David Lynch has ever had on this planet. But this movie is _so_ good that I'm finally willing to forgive him for his treatment of _Dune_ (1984).
_Mulholland Dr._ is mesmerizing. It will suck you in, chew you up, and never let you out. You will rewatch it many times, and every time you do, you will notice (or think of) something you haven't noticed (or thought of) before.
As you probably know from the other reviews, there is a division point about four-fifths of the way through the movie. You may find it confusing -- and you _will_ find it disorienting -- the first time you see it. But bear with it and let the movie soak into your subconscious for a couple of days, and then watch it again. It does make sense, I promise. (And this isn't just a cinematic Rorschach test; there really is an intelligible plot here. Pay close attention to the details Lynch points out in his 'ten clues', included with the DVD.)
I won't give anything else away. Just be warned: if you're the sort of person who obsesses over movies, this one will give you plenty to obsess about. Not only is it gorgeously filmed and tantalyzingly paced, its rich symbolic texture and all-around oneiric quality will involve parts of you that you may not have known existed. You will wake up in the middle of the night thinking, 'Aha! So _that's_ what that meant.'
The two leads (Laura Elena Harring and Naomi Watts) are spot-on in these very demanding roles -- especially Watts, about whose performance I can't say anything concrete without including major spoilers, but _boy_, is she good. And for whatever it's worth, be aware that there are a couple of really steamy lesbian sex scenes. Some viewers (which kind am I? you guess) will regard this as a huge plus; others maybe not so much. But either way, these scenes are not gratuitous.
Lynch gives a number of cinematic nods to lots of predecessors that can broadly be classified as films noirs (notably, and pretty obviously, Billy Wilder's _Sunset Blvd._). But this is not your standard film noir; it's a David Lynch movie, with everything that entails. Don't be quick to classify it.
It will haunt you. I strongly recommend that you let it.
(_A note on the DVD_: One thing you probably won't like about it is that the usual divisions aren't there; the _entire_ movie is just one long 'scene' or 'chapter'. That makes it a real pain in the posterior to flip back and forth while you're trying to remember where you spotted someone or something before. Lynch says it's because movies, unlike books, don't divide into 'chapters'. Fair enough -- but they _do_ divide into 'scenes'. And at any rate, there's such a thing as the viewers' convenience. So feh to that.)

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