Is Nolan a ‘bastard Wachowski brother’ or is he ‘out-finchering Fincher’?

Nolanoids have been faithfully awaiting a vision, and in these crystal-clear (fake) annihilation scenes, Nolan out-Finchers Fincher and seeks Kubrickian misanthropy—but there’s a simple-minded sappiness at the heart of this cynical vision. If anything, the time and consciousness tricks stolen from The Matrix make Nolan a bastard Wachowski brother, not a son of Kubrick. Despite its big budget (what Manny Farber would call a white elephant movie), Inception is full of second-rate aesthetics, yet when shoddy aesthetics become the new standard, it’s sufficient to up-end the art of cinema.

Inception’s gee-whiz tricks permit disbelief in reality. It substitutes fascination with exploring the physical and spiritual reality of the world (which the great critic Andre Bazin posited as the glory of movies) with an unedifying emphasis on shallow, unreal spectacle. Nolan’s fascinated by his cast of narcissistic criminals indulging their own treacheries—nihilism chasing its own tail. It distracts from how business and class really work. His shapeless storytelling (going from Paris to Mombassa to nameless ski slopes, carelessly shifting tenses like a video game) throws audiences into artistic limbo—an “unconstructed dream space” like Toy Story 3—that leaves them bereft of art’s genuine purpose: a way of dealing with the real world.


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