Stone Reader

Stone Reader ★★½

Oddly for a film made in 2002, this feels very YouTube in places. Not just because it's somehow 130 punishing minutes but because it has that mechanical professionalism which hums from every youtube series where the aesthetic is formed by a middle aged guy who seems like he owns several million euro worth of whatever he's talking about following tutorials to the letter.

This is because the director works at making commercial film and this flashy firm handshake salesmannishness kind of leaks all over it. It's like someone explained Ross McElwee to Christopher Nolan's second unit direct and he riffed it. He reminds me of guys I worked with who I really liked and had brusk normie charm. I would never think of watching a film these guys directed.

I'd love to just make fun of this. The iowa solemnity, the "Great Tormented Men" stuff, the whiny nerd undertone about how "no one likes good books any more". But there are several moments of undeniable electricity in here. Not captured by mystic CINEMA happenstance either but rather a strange mix of earnestness and the mathematic pragmatism from the director's day job.

On two separate strikingly occasions a figure is introduced, talks for some minutes in typical documentary autopilot before being completely transformed into an image of the director's passion of the book, merely by seeing its cover. One is a lecturer, one is an agent. Both surely many years into being over it. But they look at the cover of this book with a religiousness while utter "that...that's a great book...no one has read it." The agent hears your man went back to welding and he looks like he wants to fucking die. (They actually reprinted this after the film so I think he was dead serious.)

Even more so the moment when the author is discovered, sounds like a person with anxiety on the phone as he says "we get a lot of junk sales calls"
only to crack wide open when hearing the book's name. This stuff is undeniable.

It's annoying to hear "I wrote to Gaddis and..." and have that story not paid off and to hear Joseph McElroy's name several times, a writer who is just tantalisingly acknowledged enough to neither merit a film like this nor have a single thing in print (Dalkey aside).

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