Gambling, Gods, and LSD (2002)


Directed by Peter Mettler

(Not enough gambling or LSD for my taste)

While the movie description is “a transcendental film by Peter Mettler,” it incorrectly states “transcendental” instead of “boring”. This docu-diary, was shot by Mettler in his globe-trotting journeys between 1996 and 1999. While soul-searching, is more than an hour longer than it needed to be. It clocks in at over three hours, and in that time, Mettler takes us to four main locations (Toronto, Las Vegas, Switzerland, and India, respectively), all the while shaking the camera like a monkey with A.D.D. and a bout of seizures. Harsh? Try sitting through three hours of this. And yes, I understand it was a hand camera doing a world tour, although there was at least one scene which looked steady-cammed.

He thematically manages to tie all the different scenes together in a thread of death, hopelessness and sex-toys, but leaves the actual questions (and answers) up to the viewer. Very little is trying to be said with this film, except that travel films aren’t all that exciting, unless you were there. A friend of mine went to Las Vegas recently, and he really enjoyed the Las Vegas portions of the film, but didn’t think anyone else would, since we wouldn’t be able to confirm the wackiness of the Vegas society. He was correct.

The narrator, rather than being helpful to the story, spoke in a soothing radio voice, and spoke in riddles which couldn’t be answered, and didn’t appear to be relevant to the images on the screen. He only spoke occasionally to us, and often to people he met in a cinema verite documentary style. However, there also didn’t appear to be any point to his questions. Often the scene began with the subject talking about his or her hobby (auto-erotic machines, heroin, God, etc), and then the narrator would ask some non-sequitor, such as “have you ever been in a war?” with no lead in, and no follow-up.

Additionally, there were some artistic, but pointless scenes, such as fast-forwarding a sunset, or fast-forwarding a drive down a vertigo-laden mountain highway, or watching a building being demolished (in reverse) over the hips of a tattooed nude. While this is all well and good, it detracts from the greater meaning of the film (if any) and cheapens the overall experience, not to mention taking away countless minutes from my precious life.

Given a few days to buffer the experience, I can give it a more favorable review, since it was visually stunning in some spots, and drew a nice juxtaposition between devout Indian worshippers going on a pilgrimage, and kooky Christians going on about how they *just* spoke with Jesus, and are now shaking on the floor of a cheap hotel conference room. I mean, why is it some of us feel the Indian worshippers with their paper idols and straight-razor haircuts, are more pious and authentic, and others think that rolling around on the floor of a hotel, “slain in the spirit” while rock ballads are playing, is a religious experience.

Unfortunately, the film maker failed to draw more of Gambling and LSD into the film (a full two-thirds of the film’s title), even though there was plenty of heroin talk. As a result, we are unsure of his meaning: What part does LSD play? Good or bad? Is LSD simply a metaphor for the zany way in which we live our lives? Or is it conveyed in the pointless artistic experiments and camera work? Should we gamble more or less? Are we gambling our souls away by worshipping? Should we?

Regardless of the answers to un-asked questions, I knew there was going to be trouble when Mettler asked himself when film “started making itself.” Films shouldn’t be making themselves. They don’t know how to edit.

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