The Bleep Do We Know
Review Date: 9.21.04
Porchia, the Argentinian poet who earned his living as a carpenter,
left a body of work that can be read in about 20 minutes. Most
of his poems are from one to three lines long. Heres one
of them: This world understands nothing but words, and you have
come into it with almost none.
Heres another: He who has seen everything empty itself
is close to knowing what everything is filled with.
I think the latter poem could serve as a mini review of "What
The Bleep Do We Know", an independent film opening this
weekend at The Nickelodeon Theatre in downtown Santa Cruz, but
I may be wrong. After all, what the bleep do I know?
I do know that Ive seen the film, and that Ive read
the production notes. And that I can make a few reliable observations
about it, but Im not at all sure I understand it.
"What The Bleep
?" is part animation, part documentary
and part narrative. Other movies have blended genres, but none
quite like this. And if this were a more traditional film, Id
be hesitant to tell you much about the story line. But it isnt,
so Im not.
The narrative thread is carried by a character named Amanda,
played by Marlee Matlin. Amanda lives in a gloriously appointed
apartment in Portland, Oregon. Shes a dispirited photographer,
bummed out by a failed marriage. One evening Amanda treats herself
to a movie, The Wizard Of Oz. While shes watching the
Oz, and as she leaves the theatre, the director seems to employ
cinematic devices that would indicate flashbacks, or memories,
or perhaps wishful fantasies on Amandas part. We, the
observers, dont have enough information to determine which.
But soon, thanks to the interspersing of short monologues by
a series of quantum physicists, physicians, and other well educated
folks, we come to realize that what were witnessing are
alternative versions of Amanda.
As the narrative proceeds, Amanda will encounter people and
ideas that will transform her life. And, lest we become confused,
there are plenty of talking heads to keep us on the straight
and narrow, which turns out to be not very straight, and hardly
narrow. In fact, we are often asked how far down the rabbit
hole wed care to venture.
"What The Bleep Do We Know?" is an odd film. Its
often artless, frequently awkward, but almost always interesting.
The narrative portion has the feel of well intentioned, but
badly directed and poorly acted amateur theatre. But the animation
is clever, and the dozen or so assorted smart folks who speculate
with wit and verve about such things as alternative universes
or the nature of addiction or the vast emptiness of our cells
more than compensate for the earnest but flaccid story line.
I wish I hadnt read the production notes. Theyre
pretentious and self congratulatory. Id prefer to think
that a hired publicity hack knocked them off for a few bucks
and that the well intentioned filmmakers didnt have time
to approve them.
"What The Bleep Do We Know?", for all its clumsiness,
is, as that distinguished gentleman in the old Schwepps
ads used to say curiously refreshing. Any film that sends
me to the library for a closer look at the intersection of consciousness
and quantum physics is OK by me. Be brave. Take a chance on
For KUSPs Film Gang, this is Dennis Morton.