Thomas Pynchon -- A Journey into the Mind of [P.]
2001, 92 minutes
Written and directed by Fosco Dubini and Donatello Dubini
In this film, the Dubini brothers -- a pair of Italo-German filmmakers -- attempt to unravel the enigma surrounding the reclusive American writer Thomas Pynchon. Making spirited use of old photographs, historical documents, relevant news footage, and numerous interviews with Pynchon friends, fans, and fanatics, the documentary doesn't break any new ground, but it does present a wonderful feast of Pynchonalia served up with a sense of humor and a generous helping of music by the Residents.
Christian of the Pynchon List has the following to say:
[The film contains] a lot of well known and a some not so well known footage of the usual suspects: JFK, A3-4..., Oswald, Pavlov's Dogs, Leary, von Braun.... Some faded photographs and distorted video captures of people supposed to be TRP. Also some lookalikes and impersonators, lovers, hunters and fans. I like the film pretty much, to me it visualises TRP's texts as well as his imagined personae in nice elliptical pictures. So enjoy....
Review from Time Out London by Gareth Evans:
"Things are not as they seem." In US writer Thomas Pynchon's case, this is a mantra, cornerstone to a life and labyrinthine oeuvre freighted with ceaseless speculation. In books like V. and Gravity's Rainbow, the covert arenas of the contemporary order (the military-industrial complex, governmental conspiracy, the sinister reaches of science) mesh with counter-cultural values, permeating paranoia, arcane knowledge-systems and profoundly ironic humour in an encyclopaedic investigation of modernity. Central to this is a (doomed) quest for some singular explanation of things, a motif taken up by the Dubini duo in their intriguing derive that takes in his biography, times and obsessive supporters.
On the surface it's a tall order: Pynchon is one of the great cultural recluses, unphotographed for 40 years, his absence from the flashgun glare now an inseperable part of his "project." So the film offers an atmospheric collage, chaptered around varying recollections and his synchronicity with resonant aspects of post-war US society. Apposite newsreel and found-footage of missile experiments and Agency psychedelics tests mix with talking heads, spoken extracts and Pynchon's articulate fans. Stand-ins, doubles, lookalike contestants populate a shifting reality, scored to a trippy, fragmented soundscape care of The Residents, that builds towards a
compelling final act, searching for the grail of a new image of the writer. Reflecting the hall of mirrors in which the novels, history, the novelist and his "researchers" move, this documentary, while uneven and occasionally over-extended, provides required viewing for devotees, and should reward those keen to explore the mysterious dynamics of the age via one of their definitive suveillants.
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IO Film Journey review -- A review of the film by "Rebort" for the IO Film site.
German Cinema Journey site -- Some basic information about the film and its creators.
Der Fluch des Verschwindens -- A piece on the film for Die Tageszeitung. (German)
Press Kit -- A PDF of the film's press kit. (German)
Main Page -- Back to the "Pynchon in Film" main page.
Pynchon Shorts -- News segments about Pynchon or short films inspired by his writing, including CNN's "Where's Thomas Pynchon" and Kevin Soul's Descent.
Buckaroo Banzai (1984) -- This sci-fi cult classic has numerous Pynchonian connections.
Pynchon References in Film -- Allusions to Pynchon and his works in films such as The Miracle Mile, Mr. Jealousy, and Storytelling.
Pynchon References on TV -- Allusions to Pynchon and his works on television, from "The John Larroquette Show" to "The Simpsons."