Thursday, March 3, 2011

Philip K. Dick at the Movies

Tomorrow a new film based on a Philip K. Dick story, The Adjustment Bureau, opens. I’ve not yet seen the Matt Damon/Emily Blunt film yet, but the PKD fans I know are not impressed with it and don’t think it’s true to the author’s vision and thinks it's been skewed too much in a conventional-romantic direction. (Here is a mostly approving review by the NYT's Manohla Dargis.)

The film is based on a 1954 Dick short story, “Adjustment Team,” which is pretty decent for early PKD has more cinema-ready action than many; within a few pages much of the protagonist's world has crumbled to ash and he's chased with menacing minders -- "men in white robes" -- of the kind the author specialized in. Jonathan Lethem collects the piece in the 2002 Selected Stories and writes that in this story "we meet the Dick of the great sixties novels, his characters defined by how they endure more than by any triumph over circumstances." (I'm gonna take my guess as to whether it's the crashing action or the stolid endurance that plays a bigger role in this film version.)

Director George Nolfi seems to have his heart in the right place.  “Dick was really interested in the line between reality and some mental construct that could be illusion or could be another level of existence,” Nolfi told Geoff Boucher of Hero Complex. “I really wanted to take that and turn it on its head and ask, ‘What happens if you see behind the curtain and it’s unequivocally clear that is the truth?’ What you’ve seen before is only a tiny part of reality, how do you deal with that?”

Here is Geoff's whole piece.

I’m more excited about the announcement that Ubik – tight, funny, philosophical and perhaps Dick’s finest novel despite being a bit of a mess at the end – will be directed by Michel Gondry, whose Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is one of several fine movies that bears the author’s stamp despite not being based directly on his work. Though Gondry has stumbled lately, he’s an imaginative director with a gift for the startling image, and he loves ideas.

Dick scholar David Gill, on Total Dick-Head blog, reports himself “ambivalent” about the Gondry choice. His post here

And let’s not forget Radio Free Albemuth, a no-budgert indie based on an odd and sort-of-autobiographical novel with a quasi-Nixonian conspiracy: The film is not perfect, but it captures the tone of Dick’s novels as well as any adaptation I’ve seen, and the PKD community has lined up behind it. Its trailer is here. (The film's site reminds me that the author died 29 years ago yesterday, in Orange County.)

And brief news today, Friday, that Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? may inspire another movie that could be a sequel or prequel to Blade Runner.

And HERE a link to all of my posts on PKD.

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