April 4, 2004

Is Stone Reader a good documentary? Tonya is praising the film Stone Reader, so I feel compelled to dissent and say that this is a ridiculous excuse for a documentary, though people who enjoy the pacing of, say, NPR radio may enjoy it. (Sideswipe at NPR: This morning they went on and on about people in India who made clay pottery. Why they kneaded the clay by hand and used a potter's wheel! We listened our way through each supposedly bizarrely primitive step of the pottery process that will be familiar to anyone who ever took a ceramics class.)

Stone Reader is the dragged out search for an author of a book the filmmaker read and loved a long time ago. Tonya writes: "You must see this film if you are a bibliophile." I'd say if you're a bibliophile, just read, don't waste time watching a movie about how long it takes to find an author--with numerous pointless shots of things like raking leaves (you know, time is passing, and the author is still not found) and the filmmaker's son opening his new Harry Potter book and interviews with people who might know where the missing author is that go on and on and then conclude with the news that the interviewee does not know (and, yeah, I know Citizen Kane kind of proceeds in that way--"Rosebud? Never heard of it!"--but this is not Citizen Kane). Read the customer review "10% actual content, 90% padding" at Amazon. And check out the inflated price of the DVD--which I paid. (Sure, it has a lot of special features, but what consolation is that? There's no special feature that gives me two hours of my life back.)

Stone Reader feels like a 2-hour public service announcement about the benefits of reading. Can a good movie be made about reading? What movies are there about reading? I can think of The Neverending Story and The Princess Bride, which use the device of reading a book to enter into a story (which Alice in Wonderland does too). I can think of really only one decent movie that really is (pretty much) about reading: La Lectrice. It's hard enough to do a film about writing, but reading? Reminds me of that episode of Seinfeld--The Pitch--where George and Jerry pitch the idea of the show about nothing:
JERRY: ..Well, as I was saying, I would play myself, and, as a comedian, living in New York, I have a friend, a neighbor, and an ex-girlfriend, which is all true.

GEORGE: Yeah, but nothing happens on the show. You see, it's just like life. You know, you eat, you go shopping, you read.. You eat, you read, You go shopping.

RUSSELL: You read? You read on the show?

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