Apr 7, 2008


Bartleby is a slight re-visioning of Herman Melville's unappreciated masterpiece Bartleby the Scrivener. When you adapt a novella about an enigmatic man who is solemnly creepy, of course you'd enlist Crispin Glover to play this role. Indeed he does, and with the fewest amount of lines, he manages to deeply haunt you long after the film is over.

Now when i say modern, I don't necessarily mean present times, but more of an incredible 60's feel to it. The public records office is a comfortable place to work, already equipped with enough dysfunction to last till the next pay check. Flirtatious secretaries fit good with swinger co-workers. When an extremely sordid employment ad goes out in the local newspaper, only a single man answers the ad. His name is Bartleby and he is calm, collective, and a weird charmer.

Crispin Glover's performance is stunning in this film. Only someone of his caliber and notoriety for bringing out more than enough charisma could fit this role. Back to the subject of it's "Retro" appeal, the colors of the office are exuberant and striking. The personalities in the office match perfectly. A good comparison to the look of this film would be the hit underrated game for SNES/GEN - Zombies Ate My Neighbors! Just as The Boss began to lose sleep over Bartleby's creepy nature, i too felt haunted after viewing this film. The all too similar "I don't want to work" theme has been in explored in such farce's as Clerks or even Office Space. Not to bunch up Bartleby in with this illicit crowd, but it is of a similar nature, but with a surreal context.

Much of this is due to the score. The soundtrack was all composed with a machine called the Theremin. This instrument is a series of antenna's and electronic loops that you play with hand gestures. The resulting drones and hums are then sent to a loudspeaker. Similar to the game ZAMN!, the score features ambiguous tracks that not only alter your state of reality, but bring more life in an air-conditioning vent that Lynch couldn't do with a radiator.

Bartleby is a woefully mysterious being of humanity. An amazing point of this film is it's replay value. Immediately after it was over, I wanted to be assaulted by his weirdness again. Jonathan Parker's debut film is an enormous cult success. I was very surprised, this coming from a Jew who claims to be a tall, elongated Woody Allen. I could go on and on about how deeply the film distressed me, but I'd prefer not to.



Anonymous said...

"I prefer not to"

I also found myself saying that for days after watching this movie!

I dont really agree about the supporting cast, if it weren't for Crispin's performance as...well, himself really. This movie wouldn't have been very entertaining at all. Very stylish, and atmospheric but I think the script lacked a certain something...

maybe it's just me, but I dont think it is.

Anonymous said...

have you seen the original from 1970 with paul schofield and john mcenery?, its a lost cult item par-excellence.