THE ZERO THEOREM
(directed by Terry Gilliam, 2013)
****+ (out of 5)
> Terry Gilliam is a visionary dreamer. With his offbeat brand of whimsy, heavily peppered with biting social satire, he makes films that no one else could make. Wonderful films, mostly.
. It’s a damn shame, that now that he is an experienced filmmaker on the far side of 70, he is having an increasingly difficult time finding investors to make these obvious acts of love. This venture had a very troubled history. Terry had a terrible time raising the capital to make it, and was forced to look to Britain, France and Romania to find investors. Then, when the film was in the can, it took almost 2 years for him to find a distributor. After a cursory run in theaters, the property was unceremoniously dumped onto DVD and released without fanfare. Perhaps his shockingly dismal TIDELAND sealed his fate with investors. That film was so abysmal, the DVD actually begins with the ex-Monty Python funnyman addressing the audience directly and, in effect, apologizing for the film viewers are about to see! (I am stoked to hear skittish investors have stepped up to the plate and funded his next madcap opus: THE MAN WHO KILLED DON QUIXOTE- a legend that has always held a special fascination for the inspired director.) In any case, this reticence showed a singular lack of vision on the part of bean-counting investors. Thank goodness that lack of vision is not evident anywhere in this pretty damn wonderful movie.
. In fact, this crazy genius has delivered another film that seems destined for cult classic status, as with TIME BANDITS, 12 MONKEYS and MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL. I was under the (thankfully) mistaken notion that this was a small, claustrophobic film about a strange loner holed up in his flat stewing over his computer and obsessing about esoteric matters- kind of a KRAPP’S LAST TAPE for modern times- and there was a bit of this. But there was so very much more to this pleasant weirdo of a film.
. Again, (as in BRAZIL), we are treated to the cognitive dissonance of an incongruous retro-futurism. Again we get a vision so grand and rich with detail that it’s a hugely entertaining journey into the fantastic. Again, Christoph Waltz shows us that Quentin Tarantino did the world a huge favor by bringing this very fine character actor to the world’s attention. Though the second half gets pretty intimate, this is actually rather big filmmaking with a couple of really amazing setpieces including a massive sci-fi super computer that looks as though it was designed by Dr. Seuss, and a depiction of the streetlife of the future that is stunning and tragically believable. (Including kooky costuming that takes today’s casual wear and extrapolates the way it morphs into business attire, and a hyper-commercialism that flashes and buzzes with a craven chaos of bright color and attention-seeking images bombarding passersby with banal advertising.) But smack in the middle of all this silliness is a very serious film about the alienation of modern man and the thirst for meaning inherent in a human life.
. Christoph’s “Qohen” is a quivering mass of phobias and insecurities. He has no friends, doesn’t care much for people, hates to be touched, and lives in a joyless world of crushed hopes and disillusionment, while waiting for a mysterious phone call that will make everything okay- explain his existence and unveil the meaning of life. Ironically, he is an elite computer programmer, put to work finding evidence for a theorem that would prove the universe came from nothing and is heading back to nothing- that all life, is essentially meaningless.
. But this “Zero Theorem” most certainly does not apply to this film, which is redolent with meaning, deep, acidly funny and profound.
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© Kevin Paul Keelan and lastcre8iveiconoclast, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kevin Paul Keelan and lastcre8iveiconoclast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.