New Movie Review: Man's descent into schizophrenia avoids cinematic stereotype

Schizophrenia Update, October 2003


John Petkovic
Plain Dealer Reporter

Films about schizophrenia always seem to take on one of two personalities.

There's the sentimental drama about mental illness - the one where never-ending compassion leads to a happy ending. Then there's the other extreme: A "mad man" goes on a rampage loaded with "deranged" dialogue and twisted faces.

Then there's "Revolution #9."

Tim McCann's portrait of a young man's descent is a film in search of a personality. Will it end happily? Violently? Hopeful or hopeless? You never really know, but that's what makes it such an engaging journey.

The film follows James (Michael Risley), a 27-year-old Manhattan apartment dweller. He's smart, handsome and successful - on the surface. Inside, Jackson is a tumultuous soul who believes that he's being controlled and manipulated by the media.

That might sound heavy-handed. At times, it is. But McCann is deft at mixing obsessive camera work like that of Roman Polanski with the detached cyber-angst of David Cronenberg to make it work.

James' trigger is a TV ad for a perfume called "Rev 9." Most would write it off as a just another pretentious perfume commercial that mixes sex with camera gimmicks and abstract gibberish to sell a potion.

Not Jackson. He sees it as a much more insidious form of mind control. So much so that he poses as a journalist and tracks down the director of the spot. It leads to a confrontation, er, I mean, an "interview," as well as the film's most warped scene.

Spalding Gray is impeccable as the pompous director who compares his "personal vision" to the cinema of Italian art-house director Michelangelo Antonioni. James wants none of it. He wants to know, "What do MTV and the Roman Empire have in common?"

It would be funny if the rest of "Revolution #9" wasn't so realistic.

Over the course of nine numbered scenes, James' inner turmoil not only bubbles out but consumes his fiancee, Kim (Adrienne Shelly). She tries to get him help at every twist and turn, only to run into one hurdle after another - their families, a bureaucratic mental-heath system and a cold, cold world that refuses to understand.

How do you relate to someone suffering from such a disease? Where do you go to get them help? How do you get through to the other side?

"Revolution #9" doesn't provide answers. But it explores the problem with the kind of nuance we rarely see on the screen.

For more information on the movie:

Revolution #9 - VHS Version, Starring: Michael Risley, Adrienne Shelly, Director: Tim McCann, Format: Color, NTSC, Rated: NR, Studio: Wellspring Media, Inc.




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