Thursday, May 19, 2005

Primer - Movie review.

Boy, what an uber-geek experience.

These two guys, Abe and Aaron, who run a cottage tech industry out of their garage at night, try to invent a levitation device but accidentally invent a time machine instead. They discover this because their test subject, a weeble (which wobble but don't fall down, donchaknow), keeps getting coated in slime, which ends up being a common bacteria that grows really slowly on everything. Thus, to coat the weeble, it would have to have been sitting still for hundreds of years.

What's cool, or overwhelming, is that the movie never slows down to provide a simple explanation as to what's going on. We get no Doc explaining the flux capacitor (well, we do, actually, but it's pretty complex) and we particularly get no clues as to what specific times they travel to - or for what reason. That's for YOU to figure out. And what fun it is!

I'm willing to bet that folks who haven't read a few time travel novels will be utterly lost as to what's occurring. I think the only reason I followed it is because I love the twisty knots of time travel, and the first book I read on it is still one of the best.

The Man Who Folded Himself by David Gerrold* is a trip. And it figures in a seminal moment in my childhood. My mother didn't allow me to read any books with any sex in them at all. We had a huge fight because I wanted to read the script of the movie Westworld, but it contained the word "hooker" just once, so she didn't want me to read it. I eventually got to, but you get the idea. So, in The Man Who Folded Himself, the guy discovers that if he goes forward a day, if he's home that day, he bumps into himself. After discovering this, he often picks a day in the future, and travels to it several times and to have an orgy with himself. Which begs the questions, is it homosexuality, masturbation, incest, or all three? Anyway, due to my initial shock at this development, I turned to my mom on the couch and said, "Guess what this guy is doing." And I told her. She reached over, took the book from my hands, ripped it in half and said, "Sorry, but you're not reading that kind of trash." The fight that ensued from that event was one of the biggest I ever had with my mom. I was mostly incensed that I couldn't finish one of the most intriguing books I'd read up to that point, but it fixed in my mind the evils of censorship. To this day, any and all censorship pushes my buttons like few other things. (Which is one of the reasons the intense secrecy of the Bush administration makes me froth.)

        *David Gerrold, btw, also wrote the famous Star Trek episode about the Tribbles.

I eventually went to the library, checked out a copy of the book on the sly, and finished it. It was great, and it really walks you through all the permutations of time travel. So, since I'd read that book, I think I was able to follow the plot of Primer easier than someone who hadn't read anything like it.

Also, in my work, I've had to work on financial systems that bill and process data from previous periods, so discussing those systems is often like discussing time travel.

You can kinda tell Primer was made on the cheap, but that just lends to its credibility, and gives it a quasi-documentary feel. I think if two guys discovered time travel in their garage, the subsequent events would take place in cars, warehouses, living rooms, and look just like this film does.

Shane Carruth, conceived, wrote, directed, edited, and scored the thing. He also plays one of the two main characters. Film buffs should make a point of listening to his commentary as it's a great little film school, points out things easy to miss, like how they used color correction to give subtle hits as to what's going on, and he helps with understanding the plot - so if you missed it during the movie, you can catch up.

The web site is pretty nifty, too. It even offers MP3s of the score. How cool is that?


Sya said...

I'm too lazy to look it up, but is the Gerrold book the same one I heard about where the main character is his own mother and father due to time traveling and a sex-change operation?

BTW, my parents never bothered to check up on what I was reading. All they complained about was that I read too much.

Yahmdallah said...

Yes, it is the same one, but actually, he discovers the female version of himself in an alternate universe - so no sex change is needed.

Michael said...

Oh, wow! I remember reading the Gerrold book when I was a kid. I wasn't at all censored by my parents at the library, but that book just blew me away. I had long forgotten what the full title and author's name were, though, and have tried to look it up more than once. *Wanders over to Amazon...*

Anonymous said...

Actually, the book that Sya is referring to is All You Zombies by Robert Heinlein.

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