A Scanner Darkly [Blu-Ray] Richard Linklater

A Scanner Darkly [Blu-Ray] Richard Linklater
As a follow-up film to Richard Linklater's rotoscopic beginner's guide to teenage theology, Waking Life, A Scanner Darkly is more dignified, incorporating the source Philip K. Dick novel, suppressing some of Linklater's undergraduate expository screenwriting pretence and exploring sci-fi allegories. It's concerned more so with fluid notions of consciousness in relation to social identity constructs in a culture conflicted by normalcy, as puritanical control of aberrance, than the obvious theme of drug usage, which shouldn't surprise anyone familiar with the analogous nature of Dick and the stoner introspection of Linklater. Born of the '70s, when paranoiac hallucinogens were waging a divide and control campaign between oppressors and the subjugated, this vision of the future is consistent with then and now, only with the advent of image-blurring suits worn by police employees for workplace anonymity while monitoring suspected criminals. This set up allows for the unique identity duality of Bob Arctor (Keanu Reeves), an investigator asked to monitor himself for control and distribution of popular narcotic Substance D(eath). It also gives him the secret opportunity to observe the goings on of his gang of periphery social outcasts, James Barris (Robert Downey Jr.), Ernie Luckman (Woody Harrelson) and Donna Hawthorne (Winona Ryder), as they trip out in his house. Addicted to drugs, while holding onto the image of his role as law enforcer, the reality-altering narcotic creates conflict between the right and left hemispheres of Bob's brain, blurring his concept of common truth as referent to greater perceptions of normality in relation to a society that is implicitly abnormal. Like any good ideologically critical Christian apologue, those that indulge in actions of an indulgent, pleasure-seeking nature are punished. The drug addict is made a social pariah, beneficially incapable of political dissent. The cycle benefits the omniscient, keeping denizens unconvinced of common morality, subject to their addiction and psychosis, which ironically creates an added authoritative paranoia of difference. While the film is somewhat repetitive and tangential, exerting too much effort on drug-addled shenanigans and idle conversation, A Scanner Darkly acts as a more mature and focused counterpart to Waking Life, similarly using eye-popping "painted film" imagery to distance conventional ideas of reality. Seemingly, it's less pretentious until the included commentary track with Reeves, Linklater and Dick's daughter, Isa, drones on with affected discourse. More compelling as a Blu-Ray supplement is "Weight of the Line," which details the year-and-a-half animation process for this film after it was shot. (Warner)