Skip to main content

Review: Inception or Royal Road To Your Skull

Watching a movie is like dreaming in the dark with eyes wide open.  This oneiric element of film has a long tradition.  I had planned to write a lengthy, somewhat academic, and very clever review of Inception, the new Christopher Nolan blockbuster about dream-spies - one that would reference Freud, Lacan, Kubrick, Welles, - you name it.  I am less sure I need to now.

Having read Cosmo Landesman's review in The Sunday Times, I think we concur on the following: 1. Inception's representation of dreams, and dream states, is unconvincing - a weird mistake, since everyone dreams and will recognise this problem - in the sense that the film refrains entirely from any sexual or much repressed or symbolic content in the dreams; and also, presents very few non-linear (non-narrative) episodes.  2. The film's filmic references to Kubrick and Welles (i.e. the new Rosebud in the safe at the end, the Lady from Shanghai mirror references, Mr Arkadin billionaire-quest plot), Hitchcock (Vertigo etc), and Francis Bacon (in the bath) - are visually clever, but perhaps too obvious, as is the Ken Adam-style winter HQ. 3.  The movie is yet another Leo flick with a dead wife where what is real is uncertain, and questioned using the medium of film - perhaps one too many.  4. It is self-important to the extent that it becomes boring at times, and almost insanely complex.

On the up side, it has some fun Cronenberg moments, where the dream-thieves are like junkies, seeking "kicks", and the Ouspenskyian swirl of time and place becomes deliriously funhouse madcap.  It is also ambitious for a Hollywood movie, in that it tries to explore emotions, ideas, film history, and suspense, as well as violence.  Unfortunately, it is not the amazingly mind-blowing cultural moment that The Matrix was.  However, by beginning and ending the film with a "surf-tormented shore" from the Edgar Poe poem, "A Dream Within A Dream", on which the film's central agon is based, it has the credentials to be deemed poetic.  And that is worth celebrating.

Further, a few gags ("you mustn't be afraid to dream a little bigger"), a speeding train down a main street, some floating bodies in an elevator, the stirring Hans Zimmer score, and a nice role for Tom Berenger, add value to the whole.  On a last point (spoiler alert): the film's twist is in the title - it's "Rosebud" being that the "Inception" is Nolan's, on us, the audience - planting in our minds doubt as to whether what we have seen is "real" or not - clever since, within the film-as-film, at all layers, it is actually filmic artifice, yet at stake is the main character trying to break out of that (by dying and rebirth) into actuality.  See Deleuze for the way in which the filmic can be seen as a becoming.

Popular posts from this blog


According to the latest CBS, ABC, etc, polls, Clinton is still likely to beat Trump - by percentile odds of 66% to 33% and change. But the current popular vote is much closer, probably tied with the error of margin, around 44% each. Trump has to win more key battleground states to win, and may not - but he is ahead in Florida...

We will all know, in a week, whether we live in a world gone madder, or just relatively mad.

While it seems likely calmer heads will prevail, the recent Brexit win shows that polls can mislead, especially when one of the options is considered a bit embarrassing, rude or even racist - and Trump qualifies for these, at least.

If 42-45% of Americans admit they would vote for Trump, what does that say about the ones not so vocal? For surely, they must be there, as well. Some of the undecided will slide, and more likely they will slide to the wilder and more exciting fringe candidate. As may the libertarians.

Eyewear predicts that Trump will just about manage to win th…


Like a crazed killer clown, whether we are thrilled, horrified, shocked, or angered (or all of these) by Donald Trump, we cannot claim to be rid of him just yet. He bestrides the world stage like a silverback gorilla (according to one British thug), or a bad analogy, but he is there, a figure, no longer of fun, but grave concern.

There has long been a history of misogynistic behaviour in American gangster culture - one thinks of the grapefruit in the face in The Public Enemy, or Sinatra throwing a woman out of his hotel room and later commenting he didn't realise there was a pool below to break her fall, or the polluted womb in Pacino'sScarface... and of course, some gangsta rap is also sexist.  American culture has a difficult way with handling the combined aspects of male power, and male privilege, that, especially in heteronormative capitalist enclaves, where money/pussy both become grabbable, reified objects and objectives (The Wolf of Wall Street for instance), an ugly fus…


The Oscars - Academy Awards officially - were once huge cultural events - in 1975, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr, Shirley MacLaineandBob Hope co-hosted, for example - and Best Picture noms included The Conversation and Chinatown. Godfather Part 2 won. Last two years, movies titled Birdman and Spotlight won, and the hosts and those films are retrospectively minor, trifling. This year, some important, resonant films are up for consideration - including Hidden Figures and Moonlight, two favourites of this blog. Viola Davis and Denzel Washington will hopefully win for their sterling performances in Fences. However, La La Land - the most superficial and empty Best Picture contender since Gigi in 1959 (which beat Vertigo) - could smite all comers, and render this year's awards historically trivial, even idiotic.

The Oscars often opt for safe, optimistic films, or safe, pessimistic films, that are usually about white men (less often, white women) finding their path to doing the right thin…