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A filmmaker's inquiry into transcendence becomes a three-hour trip across countries and cultures, interconnecting people, places and times. From Toronto, the scene of his childhood, Peter Mettler sets out on a journey that includes evangelism at the airport strip, demolition in Las Vegas, tracings in the Nevada desert, chemistry and street life in Switzerland, and the coexistence of technology and divinity in contemporary India. Everywhere along the way, the same themes are to be found: thrill-seeking, luck, destiny, belief, expanding perception, the craving for security in an uncertain world. Fact joins with fantasy; the search for meaning and the search for ecstasy begin to merge. Written by
This film has received tonnes of hype in Canada, specifically Toronto, because the filmmaker Peter Mettler lives here and he's worked with Atom Egoyan. It won best documentary at the Genies or Geminis or whatever the hell you call the Canadian equivalent of the Academy Awards (side note: I guess Gary Sinise was a presenter at the award show this year, and the crowd apparently erupted when he took to the stage. That's how lame the Canadian Movie Award Show is). Also, the film has been written about in Macleans, The Toronto Star, The Globe, The National Post, and countless other rags. EVERY SINGLE REVIEW I HAVE READ HAS GLOWED WITH PRAISE FOR THIS FILM:
"One of the most remarkable features of this or any year"; "Mesmerizing.Hallucinogenic.a documentary that is more dreamlike than any drama"; "Like ingesting Christ in Communion or dropping that first hit of LSD, this movie may change the very essence of your being"; or this gem: "A film trip. A world film".
I offer these snippets of praise, simply because NONE OF THEM IS TRUE. Actually. Well, maybe the last one is, since it was filmed in various locations within the world. And we had to walk to the theatre, so I guess it was also a film trip. Like a field trip, but to a film.
The documentary is 3 hours, and I've read that it originally clocked in at 55 HOURS. To which the distributor, Alliance Atlantis, said "That's a tad too long". So he edits it down to 3 hours and by God, he could have easily chopped off another 90 minutes or so. I said to Kerri as we left the theatre, "Even Eliot had an editor when he wrote The Wasteland".
What Mettler did here was take a camera with him while he was on vacation in India, Switzerland, Las Vegas, Monument Valley and Toronto (?) and filmed different things he saw. So it's like a journey, a personal journey that weaves in the topics of gambling, gods.....and uhh, LSD. Have you ever filmed cool stuff when you were on vacation? Me too, so let's get together some time and we'll splice it all together willy-nilly like, and then shop the result around to see if there are any takers. K?
There are parts of this film that are pretty remarkable, many things I've never seen before on celluloid. I will never forget such scenes (the little boy getting his head shaved with a straight razor; the Christian God-In near the airport in Toronto; the interviews in Switzerland with the former junkies; the final shot of the child chasing the camera). I will also never forget the truly juvenile, substandard camerawork throughout much of the film. I can't tell you how many times the director had the handicam shots aiming at the ground or at such an angle as to make the viewer wonder if he actually knew the camera was on. You know all those boring home movies you've seen where the cameraperson forgets to turn the record button off? THERE WERE SEVERAL MOMENTS LIKE THAT IN THIS FILM, and it was funded by Telefilm Canada, among others. AAARGH! I wanna pull my hair out over this film. I swear. Edit your movie, Peter! I understand what you're trying to do, but it doesn't work very well, sadly.
Annoying point #2: the director himself narrated the documentary at various points, since I guess he thought there was going to be the need for some kind of verbal guidance. So he interjected with poignant little things like "I see a thought. But how do I show you what I cannot see?" Or something like "I soon realised that the film was making itself, and I was a subject in this blah blah..." good lord someone get me the hell out of here before I puke all over the guy in front of me who came alone and probably writes for the entertainment section of the UofT student newspaper. We don't need the narration, Peter. It cheapens the film and it is ultimately unnecessary to tell us your silly silly thoughts.
I could seriously go on and on, and maybe I will later. So maybe the documentary was successful, since it got me and my friends talking. For all the wrong reasons, mind you. The thing is, I cannot understand how so many educated people who have supposedly seen a lot of films and who should have some kind of film background could actually shower this film with such praise. I want to walk up to Brian Johnson of Macleans (who works in my office building, so this could actually happen) and say "Come on, you must know that the film wasn't actually that good. You must understand that it was difficult to sit through at points." I wish that people would just tell the truth, without having some other mandate.
When the film ended, nobody clapped. Nobody cheered. It was eerily silent. And not because it was "mesmerizing" or "hallucinogenic", but because - I think - everyone was baffled at how unbelievably mediocre and/or bad it was (truly!) after hearing about how unbelievably amazing it was.
I personally know four people who walked out before it ended.
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