Revolution #9

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Revolution #9

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After the Watergate scandal, a shift in public consciousness gave rise to the great paranoid thrillers of the '70s, with mainstream films such as The Conversation, The Parallax View, and Three Days Of The Condor feeding off the fear that government power could be secretive, conspiratorial, and omnipresent. If last year's underrated bubblegum satire Josie And The Pussycats was any indication, those same anxieties haven't subsided so much as seeped into the shadowy world of corporations and commercial culture, which some believe have turned consumers into the consumed. Though woefully oblique and underdeveloped, writer-director Tim McCann's Revolution #9 attempts the difficult task of burrowing into the fractured mind of a modern man who loses his grip on reality, convinced he's at the mercy of insidious outside forces. A Luddite's worst nightmare come to life, the film recalls David Cronenberg's Videodrome in its depiction of technology as a pipeline for destruction, but McCann's vague, free-floating paranoia doesn't compensate for a paucity of imagination. Signs of trouble arrive early for everyman hero Michael Risley, a young and likable Manhattan journalist who has reason to be optimistic about a future with his new fiancée Adrienne Shelly, who's fiercely devoted to him. After a conversation with Shelly's whiz-kid nephew about computer hackers plants some ideas in his head, Risley soon imagines (or does he?) some strange occurrences: things moved around his desk, ominous e-mail messages, and a perfume commercial encoded for mind control. Looking for answers, Risley tracks down the source of the commercial, which leads him to confront a local photographer (Spalding Gray) while working under the guise of an Internet reporter. As his mind deteriorates and his behavior becomes more erratic, Shelly seeks help from the psychiatric community, but finds many doctors and institutions unwilling or unable to treat his schizophrenia. Though a person's delusions are hard to realize on a limited budget, McCann resorts to a generic assemblage of jump cuts, flash frames, muted dialogue, and cockeyed camera angles. As a result, Risley's conspiracy theories about corporate skullduggery are never fully articulated–a feat the comparable A Beautiful Mind, for all its flaws, accomplished more effectively. In the latter half, the paranoid underpinnings are eclipsed by a second agenda about the mental-health establishment, which allows patients to be shuffled carelessly by doctors, asylums, and the state. The two stages in Revolution #9, illness and treatment, would seem to complement each other, but stretched to a thin 90 minutes, they cancel each other out.

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