Thursday, October 04, 2007


At some point you have probably seen a film by Richard Linklater. He tends to make quite static very talky films that are as much centered on people or culture rather than story. They are tableaus of a time and place told almost entirely through conversation as opposed to conventional story telling and action. Perhaps most famously Before Sunrise is a romantic drama which consists entirely of two characters who meet randomly on a train and get to know one another walking around Vienna over the next few hours. In Dazed and Confused a portrait of the late 1970s is painted via suburban high-school on the last day of school. In his animated pictures, things are even less plot driven, particularly Waking Life, which is a philosophy survey meshed with dream logic (and lots more talking), which mirrors his debut film Slacker which used the novel structure of the camera following someone into a conversation and following the other participant out in an endless linking of random encounters in Austin, Texas.
I go through a brief survey of many of Linklater's films to illustrate how appropriate of a choice he was in the strange enterprise of translating Eric Schlosser's non-fiction book of investigative journalism and agitprop muckraking on the fast food industry, Fast Food Nation. Because the novel linked many aspects of American culture and disparate institutions into the machine of selling the soul of that nation back to itself in re-constituted parts, so too does the film. However, it does it in a non-documentary format, using Linklater's signature style of connecting a disparate collection of individuals through chance encounter and loads of conversation and ideas.
Now, this film was savaged pretty hard by the mainstream critics. Slagged as too obvious, too boring, not fun, not witty. I think that was entirely by design. Take for instance the Fast Food Marketing exec played by Greg Kinnear. for much of the film, he is sort of the moral center, slowly understanding the spiral of 'efficiencies' in running a business that gradually grinds the human element out of the equation. The film sharply mirrors this, in one of the most cutting scenes where he is broken of his idealism and just walks right out of the picture. Other threads, which mirror the talking points in the book, involve immigrant labour in the meat packaging plant (which supplies the burger patties for the fictional fast food company in the film), the fast food employees and dead-end nature of the McJob are filled either with fresh young faces or the occassional cameo of a known face. The attraction to this film however, is watching how Linklater and Schlosser's mourning for what America may have been at one time, and how painful it is to watch it wither away. Fast Food Nation is as much a lament for roads not traveled in American Society as it is about the compassion-less corporation. It may seem obvious, but the relentlessness with which the film is delivered was still ignored by the nation at large.

I guess the choir will have to do for now.

Come out Thursday Evening at 8pm for a cocktail and a nibble. Trailers and Showtime are at 8:30.


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