Thursday, August 19, 2010

No Exceptions, No Returns


Directed By Chis Nolan

…and the fever is going to take you again.

"Inception" is Chris Nolan taking an action film smashing it into a dozen pieces and then slowly rearranging the pieces into a typical narrative.

It could easily serve as a sequel to "Shutter Island where Leo’s now country fried brain continues thinking up paranoid multi-level fantasies, now dressed in vague cyberpunk, instead of 50's period costume.

None of Chris Nolan’s films are particularly fulfilling in terms of character, and that is not there function nor what makes them fulfilling for viewers who do actually enjoy them, and"Inception" is no exception.

The film begins with action and in a dream within a dream, within a dream, within a dream, etc.

A team of futuristic dream thieves, who specialize in stealing information from the subconscious of sleeping victims, are offered one last big score, but this time instead of stealing information, they are going to attempt the impossible and implant a “new” idea.

If only such a team had incepted some originality into the Marker brother’s dreams, then perhaps they could Dr. Parnassus' up something bigger than cannons.

Espionage and M.C. Escher are the order of the day, as what could have been a trip into the constantly impossible world of desire and urge, becomes another sleek, neat, hotel airport of a dream world.

It’s not as ugly and wasteful as Tim Burton’s “Alice In Wonderland” but like that film the chance to explore or soak in any surreal experience are more often than not exchanged for run of the mill shoot em up and repetitive (especially for Leo on the heels of "Shutter Island") shots of looking confused and forlorn while discussing (or refusing to discuss) a dead woman.

Action sequences like the city folding in on itself, and the zero-g slanted hallway fight are thrilling and genuinely startling and truly cinematic, in ways most of this summer's blockbusters have lacked.

The actual three universe, three time stream "Inception" sequence, is brilliant at a formal level, though what it has to do with the viral nature of ideas (memetics?), or dreams I haven’t the foggiest (nor do I suspect the Nolan's).

Though it’s logic is fuzzy at best, there is some meta-fictive hyper-awareness of the literary trope of catharsis and reconciliation with the father (Luke And Darth, Neo and Col.Sander’s/Freud).

We’ve seen variations of this scene so many times, it is chosen because by the team in fact, because of it’s “primordial resonance”, but what was interesting here was seeing it played out completely serious and dramatic while still being aware of, even encouraged to root for, the completion of it’s falseness.

If The Matrix asked us to pierce the veil of Maya, than “Inception” asks us if the fake isn't sometimes better than the real thing.

But this mental tingle for all it's developed into, is akin to the feeling of gravity one experiences in their crotch on an elevator, it's a bit surprising and pleasurable, but transient and not much worth discussing aftewards.

This is not too different from "The Dark Knight’s" ending with Batman vowing to lie, or Guy Pierce preserving his ignorance in "Memento", where the lie is more important or at least more vital than the truth.

The question of whether the top is still spinning at the end, is just a red herring, the most important scene takes place in the safe.

The complex and rigid logic of how to navigate dream space, and liberalized psychodrama both serve to create just enough coherence to get us into the next big fx surprise, the gunfire is just filler, and not particularly well shot filler at that.

It’s fitting that a summer action movie about creating false desires should not only be a hit, but multi-corporate merchandising event.

But the over-determined belief that "Inception" is entertaining is backed up by the reality, though hazy at times, that "Inception" really is entertaining, even if ultimately hollow.

A classic case of summer fever, if ever there was one, where the heat waves that fry eggs on concrete, cook brain meat to batter and then to a soft gel that does'nt ask for more than digital glamour and motion.

"I think it is immoral (in the true sense of the word) to tell a story that has a conclusion. Because you cut out your audience the moment you present a solution on the screen.

Because there are no "solutions" in their lives.

I think it is more moral-and more important-to show, let's say the story of one man.

Then everyone, with his own sensibility and on the basis of his own inner development, can try to find his own solution."-Federico Fellini(1959)

Following Fellini's thoughts on realism, one could almost believe that "Inception" was a class above the likes of "Jonah Hex", The Expendables", and "Salt", that it was more than it's action sequences, and live out the communal marketing dream in uninterrupted bliss, but sadly (or happily) we do not live in the world of such delusions, and must wake up to the fact, that ambiguity is not always bravely embracing the uncertainties of life, but sometimes simply shrinking from facing them.

From the film beforehand, I have no reason to believe the end is anything more than another in a series of calculated deferrals and delays, that have less to do with fidelity to to "the story of one man", and more to the mechanics of showbizz adage-"always leave em wanting more".

If "Lost" proved anything, it's that there is a difference between asking "infinite questions", and an Easter egg search for endless red herrings, and furthermore a more crucial difference between merely asking a question, and posing a problem so that an audience generates the question themselves.

Sadly there is no moment of "Inception", in inception, and at the end I felt more like I had watched a strange pop-psychology episode of "Magician's Secret's Revealed" than entered into my (or anyone else's) unconscious.

Chris Nolan likes puzzles and he treats his films as such.

His films are solitary games he plays, almost always telling stories of men consumed with some interchangeable obsession, but I’ve yet to be truly disappointed by any of his exploits.

There are better films in the oneiric genre like Fassbinder’s “WorldOn A Wire”, or “Until The End Of The World”, even Waking Life”, "Pontypool", “Paprika”, “The Cell”, “Dark City” and “Paperhouse” provide interesting variations on this kind of mind-game worth looking into if this film has stirred up such feelings in you.

I think “Inception” will probably hold up better over time than “Avatar”, but it’s caught somewhere between “The Matrix” and “Run Lola Run”, alternating moments of genuine inspiration and forced action clichés, and back again, but before your brain can put in them proper order the music booms out like God’s private Gong, and your pinned to your seat and who cares, the sweat pours down your head...

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