I saw Alex Jones' Loose Change when it was relatively new. As many people know, it's full of fallacies, stupid arguments, holes in logic, misquotes, and general manipulation, but the way some people react to it is baffling to me. There are lots of reasons why corrupt people might have staged September 11th for their own benefit, and yet, for some, this basic idea, just the theory of it, is so inherently immoral and evil and awful and earth-shattering to some people that their refusal to acknowledge that this could ever be is almost physical. And I understand, it's not a malicious line of thinking on their part. Nobody wants to believe the worst is possible. I'm also not saying I agree with Alex Jones, by any stretch of the imagination. Still, I have no reason to believe that when you boil his claim down to the absolute essence -- that the attacks are not what they seem on the surface, or even just that the government opportunistically exploited the war -- he has to be wrong. Blocking off even the possibility that the accepted truth might be twisted, manipulated or wrong is like never wearing a seatbelt because you're a great driver: 99.9% odds you'll be fine, but there's always that .1% chance your worldview will wrap itself around a telephone pole.
More than any other theory he offers in Collapse, and he offers many, Michael C. Ruppert wants you to open yourself to that .1% possibility. You don't have to forget what's probably true, and what makes more sense. You don't have to rule out the things that comfort you. You just have to be willing and ready for your perspective on everything to do a 180 once in awhile. Ruppert talks about working on the LAPD and discovering his colleagues dealing drugs. "'This must be an isolated incident!'", he reflects, quoting his own internal logic at the time with a reasonable amount of amusement. Uh-huh.
Ruppert's focus is on oil: how dependent we are on it (very) and how soon it's going to run out (soon). In the first 10 or 15 minutes, he predicts an oil-related disaster, in which the price of oil plummets. Obviously, he was talking about a financial disaster, but as I write this it has been 75 days since the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon, and it's impossible not to watch Collapse without thinking about those hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil pouring out into the water with each passing minute. Even as a kid, I always wondered what would happen if the world ran out of something that was natural, and what we would do next. I assumed someone else was thinking about it. 20 years later, it's somewhat disturbing to know that all the adults were assuming the same thing.
Huppert is a great speaker, breaking things down into logical chunks and presenting each case with a passion and enthusiasm that seems to rattle even him. When he isn't speaking, he sits there and considers many things: what he's just said, each question being asked of him, what that question says about him, what it says about the person asking it. You can see the wheels turning as his mental eye zooms in and out of the current human condition. There are times when he sounds like one of those crazy people you see at bus stops talking about the FBI's top secret warehouse full of aliens, but director Chris Smith, off-camera, is quick to address any cracks in his veneer by demanding the same answers an audience would probably ask of Huppert, keeping both the man, his thought process, and his advice in perspective. Smith's style of shooting, choice of music and general style are a little bit portentious and bombastic, but the technique is still basically minimalistic and focused on its subject.
I had a debate on Twitter the other day with a person who was arguing in favor of legalizing marijuana. There are many reasons for and against, and I'm simplifying her argument here, but one of her closing Tweets essentially said that even if pot was harmful, it was only as harmful as beer and cigarettes. Those are legal, she said, and pot could save my state's economy. Even if I don't like it, on some level, I have a hard time arguing with that. I see where she's coming from. It's a golden opportunity in the middle of a minefield and there's a path right to it. On the other hand, I think, isn't that like being in a hole and digging sideways rather than climbing out? Collapse presents an even worse scenario: no matter how fast we dig sideways, gravity will pull us downward until we step back and try to objectively solve the oil problem, because it is a problem; it just won't last forever. Before you let anything else get in the way of this decision, ask yourself: why not? What is there to lose? Smith's documentary about Huppert turns out to be a great place to try -- just try -- and see whether Huppert's wisdom works: sit down, set your opinions firmly off to the side, and listen.
Like The Disappeared and Paper Covers Rock, Collapse illustrates that MPI home video's art department, which also distributes IFC's titles, hasn't perfected the art of walking the line between minimalist and slightly barren. Credit where credit's due for using Collapse's original theatrical poster artwork, but the rest of the packaging is a bit dull. Then again, it's a documentary about one guy sitting in a room talking, so maybe I'm expecting too much.
The Video and Audio
FilmBuff presents Collapse in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. It looks just fine. Edges and fine detail are a touch fuzzy -- it could look better on Blu-Ray -- but there wouldn't be any real aesthetic advantage to it. The digital photography is rendered very well, and colors seem fine. The movie's lighting scheme is "interrogation room-esque", but the disc deals with black levels efficiently and without problems. An English Dolby Digital 5.1 track is basically the same story, presenting Ruppert's rants and raves with crisp and clear digital efficiency. English captions for the deaf and hard of hearing and Spanish subtitles are also included.
Deleted Scenes (15:22) and "Collapse Update" (13:17) are two well-done, self-explanatory features: the former being a few more tidbits and snippets of Huppert talking, and the latter being a new interview with Huppert following the release of the movie (it'd be worth seeing a series of these "updates" on Michael's website or blog, maybe once every six months). Both are worth a look and won't eat up your day. In a perfect world, I might have liked a third featurette in which Huppert interviews Smith, asking him about how the documentary came together, but it's not a huge complaint.
The film's original theatrical trailer is also included.
It's hard to describe why one should see Collapse from an aesthetic or detailed perspective, because it's 80 minutes of one guy in a room talking, and it seems impossible to accurately depict in other words how riveting his discussion is without just showing you bits of it. Like fellow DVDTalker and Collapse reviewer Aaron Beierle, I'm gonna let that theatrical trailer speak a bit on my behalf. Collapse is highly recommended.
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