The Gospel According to Philip K. Dick (Documentary)
Sound: C+ Extras: D Film: B
Any documentary that dares to call itself The
Gospel According To Philip K. Dick is just asking for trouble. The writer who just missed his “Do Androids
Dream Of Electric Sheep?” becoming the feature film classic Blade Runner
has a certain cache of importance few writers have achieved in the last thirty
years. One would expect the documentary
to encompass all his work, but it actually manages to avoid covering just about
any of it!
Instead, it becomes a work from the points-of-view
of his closest friends, as well as an examination of how he drifted into a
series of visions, paranoia, supposed contacts from another world and /or a
divine source, and invasions of his privacy.
We lean of a genius falling apart, yet still remaining productive and
revealing about him. It is a sad,
painful look at a great writer, who left a vision of the future that remains
grossly untapped. Even those who have
read most or all of his books would have to agree.
The DVD is the typical documentary mix of old and
new footage, but mostly new footage is offered. Most annoying is a series of time-wasting animated sequences that
tell us one-sentence facts about the late writer, time which could have been
used to better advantage for the documentary.
The program was shot with pre-high definition 1.33 X 1 full screen
digital video, which is passable, but is average, showing its age already. The director says it does not matter the
format used, but his laxness betrays him.
The sound is Dolby Digital 2.0 that can be played
back in Pro Logic. This is especially
effective when faced with Kevin Keller’s likable electronic score. The poorest parts of the soundtrack are the
audiotaped parts of Dick himself, which could probably use some digital work of
their own. The interviewees and that
taped archival moments are very much towards the center speaker, but it is not
necessarily as obnoxious as this would usually be. The combination feels a bit
older than the film’s 2000 release date, but the information itself has not
dated. If only there was more within
the program itself.
In extras, there is a strange, amusing section
called the Philip K. Dicktionary, which gives definitions for nine key words
and their coined meanings. Three is
also a stills section, but it only has 10 pictures in it. The interview with
the director is 4:34, while the additional footage runs 6:42. Offering something extra on any documentary
does tend to enhance its release on DVD, but The Gospel According To Philip K.
Dick could have used even more extras.
Just concluding by telling people to run out and read his books is
insufficient. That he has to be made
out as a freak of sorts to inspire anyone to read anything of his is almost an
insult, intended or not. Slamming your
viewer, film or video, is bad though.
Those interviewed include Robert Anton Wilson, Ray
Nelson, Paul Williams (not the singer/ songwriter,) D. Scott Apel, Jay Kinney,
Miriam Lloyd, Jason Koornick, Duncan Watson, and Sharon Perry. The film features music by Kevin Keller,
Camera Directed by Andy Massagli, Editing & Producing by Mark Steensland
& Andy Massagli, Directed by Mark Steensland.
Obviously, having the films bases on his work that
have been made for better (Blade Runner) or worse (Minority Report)
should be enough to inspire reading.
What this DVD could have used was a featurette (could 30 minutes have
killed them?) with a retrospective of his written work before going off into the
wild direction he did personally. Even
if the program decided to skip this, the DVD missed a golden opportunity to
delve into his books, like Martian Time Slip (almost made into a film by
Stanley Kubrick) that shows a rich legacy of work many will be reading for
decades to come.
As it stands, the documentary is very good, but
greatness was missed, and that’s a shame. Everyone should still check this one
out, especially on DVD.
- Nicholas Sheffo