This isn't a review, just a comment. I wasn't sure whether I wanted to see this film,
Though I was both a Philip K. Dick fan and Richard Linklater fan, though not necessarily a fan of Keanu Reeves' acting (though I must say that I do think he's an excellent person). Anyway. I watched the first 24 minutes over at IGN.com, and I was drawn in. The story is fascinating to me, and the loyalty to the original novel is definately there (unlike that John Woo film from a few years ago). Still every interview and almost every review I've read so far about the film has been about the rotoscoping technique. Not the story.
It's a fascinating technique. I've done literal rotoscoping before and the imagery you can get is amazing. Great. We know that. We can see that.
What's the story? Why do we want to see it? Who is everyone, outside of just looking like painted pictures?
Technique and style are tools, not the story in and of itself.
Movie culture seems to be making an interesting transition from being about storytelling to being about the effects and the tools surrounding them. DVD featurettes serve as masked magicians, revealing the secrets behind the spectacle, forgetting the wonderful narrative in which we are presented. People want to know how much a movie costs to make, what kind of technology is involved, and whether it'd look good on their high def 65" screen.
Most interestingly, in recent years, a lot of movies have been using effects to tell the story more effectively than in the early days of CGI. Spider-man I and II, X-2, and Pirates of the Carribean are great examples of this. But also take, for example, The Road to Perdition, which used computer effects and subtle processes to help us believe we're in Depression-era Chicago. Lately, these tools have found their use amongst all aspects of the industry and how we tell a story, from something as wide-ranging as placing Russell Crowe in a green room and making us believe he's in the now-ruined Colliseum to digitally enhancing imperfections in lead actors and actresses.
There are less than 7 minutes of CGI shots in Jurassic Park, which supposedly started this revolution. Compare that to now.
Back to A Scanner Darkly.
Within the first 5 minutes I'm launched into this world, and while I know the rotoscoping has a lot to do with that, for the scope of the movie I'm not interested in how it's done. It's just there. It's a rich painting full of color and substance, and bugs growing out of a drug addicts hair. The blur of the scramble suit intrigues me and scares me at the same time. The infringement of the drug world onto a world that doesn't truly care about its victims (represented by the Bear Club Lodge) brings me further. The conspiracy theories about blue flowers, drug terrorists (a nod to a few cold war references from the novel in which the U.S.S.R. was one of the suspects), and cultish rehab clinics has me on the edge of my seat, my eyes pressed against the laptop. Finally, at the reveal that Robert Arcter/Agent Fred is supposed to spy on himself that's where I find my story. Diverted, of course, by a discussion about an 18-speed/9-speed/8-speed mountain bike that may or may not be hot.
Then I go to interviews with actors and the director. I want to hear about why they wanted to tell this story, how they wanted to tell this story. Our culture is becoming more and more aware of addiction and its effects on its victims and the world, but it's still contraversial. What hurdles did they have to go through to tell this story.
And all of the questions are about rotoscoping. And how actors reacted to the rotoscoping process. The process. Tell us about the process.
I wanted to make a rotoscoped film once.
It was called "Penny Royalty". It was an animated musical following the career and life of Kurt Cobain. I worked on a script, working on an angle. Most of the time I found myself lost in technique and not in the substance of the story. And really, haven't we heard that story already by now?
Then I saw with "Waking Life" how possible it was. Further "American Pop" really summarized the look of it.
The reason for the look, the effect on the viewer, the beauty of the image, can all be seen in that first 24 minutes. It's great.
What makes those 24 minutes compelling though, is the acting and script. That's what makes it all work.
In my opinion, of course.