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Bartleby (2001)

September 7, 2007

I have never read the Herman Melville short story of the same name, so this review is based on the movie alone.

The acting in this movie is superb.  Crispin Glover is not in enough movies.  There’s only so many ways you can deliver the line “I would prefer not to” but he keeps it interesting throughout the movie.   David Paymer and Glenne Headly were also great in this movie, but after a while I thought Vivian became too much of a “character” and not believable as a real person.

I also loved the use of sound throughout the movie.  Carefully placed ambient noise combined with perfectly placed classical piano, starting and stopping just at the right times, give a good “feeling” in a movie where not a whole lot actually happened.

The colors were remarkably bright, especially Vivian’s skirt throughout most of the movie. But I’m not really sure what, if anything, it was supposed to symbolize, as I was thinking that the post-industrial workplace should have been portrayed as more dull and uninteresting.  I wonder if it was just being weird for the sake of being weird.  To be honest, I don’t know what the giant deer mural, the ventilation system, or a lot of the other things in the movie were supposed to symbolize either.

So the main point of the movie is how original it is for someone to simply refuse to do what society expects of them.  But does it really translate to this day and age?  On morning cartoons, every day, Caillou is bitching “But I don’t WANT to!”.  There are emos and punks and goths who try so hard to not fit in, for whatever reason.  There are people out there who do their own thing every day, the writers, the artists, the filmmakers, each trying to find that one new idea no one has tried before.

I don’t know that the film exists well as a message film.  I don’t think it succeeds at putting its point across in a way that would change the lives of the people that see it.  However, as a surreal commentary, it is entertaining and satisfactorily weird enough that I enjoyed watching it, and I appreciate how brief it was.

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