Wednesday, March 2, 2011

On Christopher Nolan's film INCEPTION (2010)

Christopher Nolan's well-reviewed film Inception didn't impress me very much. I expected a more difficult film and was disappointed to find a movie that could be easily followed by anyone familiar with Modernist and Postmodernist narrative strategies. (Having recently read Infinite Jest, I had no trouble following Inception.) Nolan is always careful to tell us exactly where we are at every moment of the film, and the only genuine ambiguity is the cheap and facile one created by the final shot. But my biggest disappointment was due to the film's poverty of imagination. This is a dream-film that understands nothing about dreams. While it takes place almost entirely (or perhaps entirely) inside dreams, its two hour and twenty-eight minute running time contains only one convincingly dream-like image, the freight train barrelling down a city street. The rest of the movie is too rational to create a convincing dream-world. Its only interest lies in what it unintentionally tells us about contemporary reality. The viewer's true 'totem,' the spinning top that tells us about Inception's status as dream or reality, is its MPAA rating. Who has PG-13 dreams? Answer: movie executives. The entire movie is being dreamed by an exec at Warner Brothers. Hence, like its difficulty and imagination, Inception's intelligence has also been greatly exaggerated. The film's sole value is as an unintentional revelation of corporatist ideology, several fundamental tenets of which can be abstracted from the movie:

1.The world is defined by corporate competitions in which even outlaws like Dom Cobb must choose a corporate side.

2. Governments are irrelevant because corporations control them. (Ken Watanabe can make Leo's murder rap vanish with one phone call; Watanabe-san is the film's David Koch.)

3. Resistance to corporate domination is useless. (The film doesn't even attempt to imply otherwise.)

4. There are no problems that cannot be solved by expert application of technoscientific rationality. (This valorization of reason is the reason underwriting Inception's too-logical dream-world.)

5. Sexuality does not exist (Has any movie about dreams ever been so sexless? Everyone who watches Inception should immediately afterward screen Caligula, just to even things out.)

6. The mind is structured like a computer game. (This 21st-century revision of Lacan is Inception's master principle; it probably contains all the others.)

Anyone interested in seeing a superior film on the dream/reality theme that is not a piece of stealth corporatist propaganda should check out Luis Bunuel's Belle de Jour. Then go on to Discreet Charm of the Bourgoisie, The Phantom of Liberty, Viridiana, The Exterminating Angel, Un Chien Andalou, L'Age d'Or, etc., etc. They're all available from Netflix (a corporation, alas...).

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