FLICKER by Theodore Roszak


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 Huge, deep-delving movie-lover's delight--and as rich a novel about the metaphysics of moviemaking as has ever been--by the author of The Making of a Counter Culture and 1984's unconvincing Dreamwatcher. Sometime in the mid-1950's, UCLA student Jonathan Gates starts attending the grungy hole-in-the-wall art-film movie-house The Castle and catches up on postwar French and Italian films. A modest guy, he's taken under the wing of Clarissa Swann, who owns the theater and writes mimeographed handouts about every movie she plays (it's hard to miss strong overtones of Pauline Kael in Clare). Jonny falls spellbound by the Thirties trash films of Max Castle, the earliest of all film noir stylists, but Clare resists Castle's spell. Even so, she helps Jonny, now her lover, put together a master's thesis on Castle after she and Jonny meet the aged dwarf Lips Lipsky, who was once Castle's cameraman and has the original negatives of all of Castle's Hollywood films. Using a unique device of Lips's called a multifilter, Jonny discovers that all of Castle's films have secret scenes printed subliminally over the doctored negatives--scenes of ghastly obscenity that leave viewers feeling unclean and turned off of sex. In writing a book about Castle and reviewing silent films Castle made in Germany as a wonderchild, Jonny unearths Castle's ties to a secret order called Orphans of the Storm, or the Cathars, a heretical pre-Christian group allied to the Dark God whose doctrines aim to end mankind as a species by curbing sex for babies and putting in its place bhoga, a yogic sex practice that avoids union but is clearly terrific. Jonny's legwork leads him into the orphanages of the God of Darkness and also carries him into the Seventies' porn and gore of the Antichrist as he readies to move into television. We follow Castle's career as he works with Orson Welles on Citizen Kane and the abandoned Heart of Darkness, with John Huston on The Maltese Falcon, etc., while making his own zombie and vampire movies. The lore on cameras, lighting, editing and so on is riveting, as is the bimillennial secret doctrine of the Antichrist being fed into the movies since their beginnings (including Shirley Temple flicks). Not a horror novel.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1991
ISBN: 0-671-72831-8
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1991


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