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The Hell Plaza Oktoberfest

The Hell Plaza Oktoberfest

Adam Jahnke - Main Page

The Mindscape of Alan Moore

The Mindscape of Alan Moore
2003 (2008) - Disinformation

At first glance, this documentary might seem an odd choice for inclusion in the Hell Plaza Oktoberfest. But don't forget that Alan Moore first made his name in American comics writing Swamp Thing, one of the greatest horror comics of all time. He created the character John Constantine, later the star of his own comic series and a pretty bad horror movie with Keanu Reeves. It can be argued that his style single-handedly laid the foundations for DC Comics' Vertigo imprint, a line of comics that raised the bar for dark graphic fiction immeasurably. Even work like Watchmen and V For Vendetta have dark undertones that are a large part of what elevates them above mere superhero and sci-fi comics. Justify it however you want. The bottom line is it's my party and I can invite Alan Moore if I want to.

Before I put this disc in, I assumed it would be a fairly standard documentary profile of the writer with talking-head interviews of his colleagues and fans extolling his genius and most likely some Comics 101 history lesson to place Moore's work in context. Happily, that's not the case. Director DeZ Vylenz assumes the viewer's familiarity with Moore from the get-go. Instead, we get a one-man show with Alan Moore addressing the camera directly for almost 80 minutes. He discusses his childhood, his love of comics, and the writing of key series like Watchmen and V. All of this is extremely interesting and entertaining, especially as told by the hirsute Moore with his droll Northampton delivery. But the film kicks into high gear about half-an-hour in with Moore discussing his decision to become a Magician. He expounds on philosophy, religion, art, science and pornography. He never comes across as pretentious, however, carefully prefacing each idea with "I think" or "It seems to me..." No matter how esoteric the subject, Moore comes across as phenomenally intelligent and surprisingly grounded. His discussion of information as a force as elemental as gravity is particularly compelling, concluding with an exponential theory of information accumulation so chilling, this may well be the most frightening movie of this year's Oktoberfest.

Along the way, Vylenz keeps things visually interesting thanks to well-chosen graphics and even a few staged sequences to accompany readings of Moore's work. If you've wondered what a low-budget version of V For Vendetta or Watchmen might look like, here's your answer. Thankfully, Vylenz knows the limits of his budget and stages things to scale, which prevents these sequences from looking ridiculous.

Disinformation has released The Mindscape of Alan Moore in a handsome two-disc set. Video quality is about average for this sort of thing. Audio work is well-balanced, although there's a big discrepancy between the volume of the feature and the menus, so if you've got it turned up during the movie, don't forget to crank it back down before the main menu pops back on and scares the bejeezus out of you. The extras on the first disc are all movie-based, including some pretty blah behind-the-scenes footage, interviews with Vylenz, effects designer Brian Kinney and composer Drew Richardson, selected scene commentary by Vylenz and a couple of trailers. Some of this is reasonably interesting but you might lose interest sooner rather than later.

Disc two is the highlight. Titled Interviews from the Comic Book Universe, the disc boasts six surprisingly lengthy, in-depth interviews with Moore's collaborators, including Melinda Gebbie (Lost Girls), Dave Gibbons (Watchmen), David Lloyd (V For Vendetta), Kevin O'Neill (The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) and Jose Villarubia (Promethea). In addition, comics historian Paul Gravett (co-founder of the late, lamented Escape magazine) adds the background and context I erroneously assumed would be part of the film itself. For comics fans, this disc is a goldmine. The package is topped off with a nice little booklet containing essays by the director and novelist Michael Moorcock.

Admittedly, I was predisposed to enjoy The Mindscape of Alan Moore. I've been a comic book fan for as long as I could read and the moment I discovered Moore's work was something of an epiphany. I truly believe Alan Moore is one of the greatest writers of the past century, either in or out of comic books. If you're a fellow fan of Alan Moore, this disc is essential. If you're not, it might just intrigue you enough to check him out.

Film Rating: A-
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/B-/A-

Adam Jahnke

Adam Jahnke - Main Page
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