Sunday, November 29, 2015
That's handled better in the movie directed by Richard Linklater from 2006, where it works as a pleasantly puzzling visual element. The movie loses a key thread in the story of the fanciful suggestion of a competing left-brain / right-brain foundation for mental breakdowns, but it's otherwise less gloomy than the book, energized by a madly riffing all-star cast of Keanu Reeves, Robert Downey Jr., Woody Harrelson, and Winona Ryder, among others, rotoscoped to good effect. The rotoscoping somehow gives it exactly the look and texture of a Dick narrative, cartoony, trembling in and out of existence, impossibly plastic. For that reason it has to be counted with the class of Dick-based movies, with Blade Runner, Minority Report, and Total Recall. I still give the edge to Total Recall, which seems to me best at capturing the core of Dick, his orchestrations of multiple realities interacting. But none of them is better at the look and feel of Dick than Linklater's picture. But it does verge on being a dreary affair—the book, I mean. There's a kind of 12-step recovery tone to that Author Note. A Scanner Darkly is weird, Dick is always weird, but it is also sad, and troubling. There's definitely a sense of soul-searching, as if Dick were losing interest in his greatest themes and capabilities even as we watch along. Addiction used to be an incidental side product of drug experience. Now it is the drug experience. From here on out, his work more and more began to entertain religious ideas I've never been able to connect with. But there's an amazing amount of his best work, most of it written in the '60s.
In case it's not at the library.