Revolution #9

Writer-director Tim McCann's follow-up to DESOLATION ANGELS (1996), his thought-provoking debut feature about date rape, is a similarly taut and intelligent treatment of another serious subject: schizophrenia. To all appearances, 27-year-old James Jackson (Michael Risley) is a perfectly normal New Yorker. He has an apartment, a steady job reviewing websites,...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Writer-director Tim McCann's follow-up to DESOLATION ANGELS (1996), his thought-provoking debut feature about date rape, is a similarly taut and intelligent treatment of another serious subject: schizophrenia. To all appearances, 27-year-old James Jackson (Michael Risley) is a perfectly normal New Yorker. He has an apartment, a steady job reviewing websites, and has even asked Kim (Adrienne Shelly), his girlfriend of a year and a half, to marry him. Under the surface, however, all is not well: Jackson is convinced someone's been rearranging the stuff on his desk and his reviews have taken on a paranoid edge; he accuses one site of "infecting" him and asks his boss why he's being singled out for harassment. Jackson really starts to unravel when he receives a mysterious e-mail containing a short, cryptic film featuring the words "Rev 9." When Jackson sees a similar spot on TV, he tapes it and shows it to Kim, who then tries to explain that it's simply part of a deliberately enigmatic ad campaign for a new fragrance; Revolution #9 is the name of a cosmetics company. But Jackson is having none of it. He's sure the film contains a coded, subliminal message meant especially for him, and that Kim's 12-year-old nephew (Jase Blankfort) and his hacker friends are somehow involved. Disturbed by her fianc&#233's behavior, Kim gets the name of a good psychiatrist; Jackson, meanwhile, gets the number of Scooter McCrae (Spalding Gray), the hipster director of the Rev 9 spots. Posing as a film journalist, he confronts the man he thinks is behind his persecution. Aside from indulging the silly and thoroughly mood-shattering impulse certain filmmakers feel to name characters after other directors, McCann's film is an atmospheric, serious-minded thriller. By alternating between Jackson's and Kim's point of view, McCann shows both sides of the story: the panicky fear of the paranoid schizophrenic — the arrhythmic editing and Marshall Grupp's masterful sound design convey a sense of dislocation and shifting reality — and the bewilderment and frustration of the people who try to help him. McCann also has something important to say about the current state of mental-health care, in which treatment is driven by insurance companies eager to get patients out of hospitals and back on the streets, rather than by professionals who've been trained to actually help.

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  • Released: 2002
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Writer-director Tim McCann's follow-up to DESOLATION ANGELS (1996), his thought-provoking debut feature about date rape, is a similarly taut and intelligent treatment of another serious subject: schizophrenia. To all appearances, 27-year-old James Jackson… (more)

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