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Read past reviews by the Film Gang

Dennis Morton reviews

Usually, I wouldn't attempt to review a film without having seen it at least twice, nor would I review a film before it's opened locally. But in the case of "Storytelling", a new release written and directed by Todd Solondz, I feel compelled to make an exception.
If I may appropriate a phrase from the Pentagon and turn it to a useful purpose, consider my comments a pre-emptive strike. My concern is that "Storytelling" will be dismissed by some reviewers as the celluloid raving of a dour misanthrope - that its primary message will be read as this: that we human beings are rotten to the core, right down to the last child.
Well, Todd Solondz' take on the human race may well be misanthropic, but that's not what "Storytelling" is about. "Storytelling" is about ... storytelling. It's a brilliant, funny, and even subtle study about the power of narrative. Todd Solondz knows that the childhood rhyme about "sticks and stones" is a lie. Sticks and stones can break our bones, but words can break our hearts. It happens often. Which is why that great psychiatrist of old, known as the Buddha, counseled us to speak consciously. Words, stories and storytellers, are powerful. An ill chosen word, or a word hurled in anger can cause great harm. And stories told with ill intent can cause great harm to many people. 
Consider the recent case of the CEO of a major American corporation who urged thousands of his employees to continue to purchase shares of company stock at the same time he was cashing in his shares for millions of dollars, just before word would reach the public that the company was hopelessly in debt. Thousands of employees lost their life savings. The CEO made a killing. Stories are indeed powerful.
In "Storytelling" Solondz skillfully illustrates, with two stories, 'Fiction', and 'Non Fiction' that our tongues and even our artistic tastes and choices are potentially weapons of pyschic destruction. He shows us that sometimes it's even what we don't say that causes the damage. Storytellers, Solondz seems to be saying, carry a heavy moral obligation. It's not simply a matter of choosing the 'bon mot' or the right image, but of considering the consequences of the those choices.
On a scale much less grand, even movie reviewers have to weigh their words carefully. Since surprise is often a major element in the narrative of a movie, we reviewers have to convey our opinions without giving the story away. 
I tend to err on the side of telling you very little about the actual story. I love to be surprised at the movies. And I may make the mistake of believing that most folks are just like me. But I will suggest that you keep your eyes and ears carefully attuned for the following scene in "Storytelling". 
A young man named Scooby, the principle subject of a documentary, heads into New York City to catch a screening of the film that will bear his name. Listen to the reaction of the audience, and watch Scooby's reaction to their reaction. It lasts but a few seconds, but it's at the very
heart of the movie.
"Storytelling" is a dark comedy, and Todd Solondz may indeed have  a dark view of the human condition. But Solondz has made a brilliant, provocative, brave, and I dare say, important film. Don't miss "Storytelling". It opens this weekend at the Nickelodeon Theatre in downtown Santa Cruz.
For KUSP's Film Gang, this is Dennis Morton.

Copyright Dennis Morton 2002