The Matrix (BFI Film Classics) Paperback – 12 Jun 2007
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About the Author
JOSHUA CLOVER, author of award-winning book of poetry Madonna anno domini (1996) and many other works, is Associate Professor of Poetry and Poetics at the University of California, Davis. He writes on art and politics for the Village Voice.
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Top Customer Reviews
By taking this tack, Clover risks offending those who see the Matrix as little more than a philosophical sideshow (a brilliant sideshow in their eyes), which is a brave stance to take and is the reason why this book is worth buying - it offers a reasoned, intellectual analysis of The Matrix as a film about the real world, a modern metaphor, rather than pandering to the fans. Whilst certain philosophical references are focussed on (like the digital disc inside 'Simulacra & Simulation'), the point of these is not only to unravel what they might say about the story, but what they say about the film itself relevant to its 1999 context.
The result is a text that offers up some interesting new angles on a film that has been covered by many, many people already. I personally liked the dissection of Keanu Reaves/Neo as something of a Baudrillardian cipher, or the chapter focussing on the film as a spectacle. Whilst this is an intellectual work, Clover maintains a light, entertaining writing style throughout. The only reason this doesn't get 5 stars is that in some areas I would have loved to have read more, and would have liked perhaps closer more detailed reference to certain shots, or more background information - something, for comparison, that Dana Polan's guide to Pulp Fiction did.
But if the only complaint is that I wanted more, I guess that's no bad thing!
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
THE MATRIX, however, by Joshua Clover, simply is not up to snuff. Clover brings up some interesting issues in the book, perhaps the most interesting of which is why Edge of the Construct films (in which characters are living in a falsified reality) were so popular at the end of the Twentieth Century. But the questions are buried under so much analytic-babble that the answers are never really all that clear.
Similar problems exist with other issues raised in the book. Clover discusses The Matrix in reference to such issues as the increase in video game popularity, the symbolism of all the characters of the rebellion wearing sunglasses but only within the matrix itself (never while in the real world), and the parallels between the matrix world and current society's push to make one an ever working automaton in a corporate structure. But these issues all feel a bit artificial, as if Clover is not really analyzing the movie The Matrix as much as he is using the movie to soliloquize about his own views of the world and issues that he thinks the rest of us need to hear.
This is particularly unfortunate given the specific movie involved. The Matrix is pregnant with meaning, both philosophical and social. This book could have been - should have been - better than the average release by BFI. Instead we get enough to whet the appetite only to be denied the nutritional meal.
Clover's analysis invokes the work of many postmodern luminaries, not surprisingly focusing on Baudrillard and his simulation. He drops the M-Bomb** on several occasions and trashes the franchising of our private lives. On the surface, it might seem like the intellectual analog to the 20-yard long Vegas Buffet, but to the properly initiated it's more like a fantastic Bolognese meal; a dizzying array of between five and nine courses, each a contrast to the last but all building toward the thesis, a complete experience of culinary shock and awe not to be missed.
Other reviewers are quick to dismiss this book as being "buried under so much analytic-babble that the answers are never really all that clear." The truth is, in life the clear answers are often the wrong ones. And an answer that is clear probably is not worth discussing. The part of the world that is truly interesting is not black and white and Clover's is not a black and white analysis. The difficulty that some might find in unpacking the meaning contained in his writing is the breadth of prior knowledge required to make sense of it.
If you, the reader, are not conversant in the cultural discourse of postmodern theory, including the writings of Jean Baudrillard, Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, Guy Debord and others, you will be at pains to extract the full meaning of Clover's writing. Critical theory tends to reify its terms; simple terms are called upon to reference entire branches of prior discourse. When Clover references, "Guy Debord's 3D Glasses" it implies an entire set of discussions about their greater cultural significance. Without knowledge of this prior discourse, you might find yourself "buried under analytic babble." If you find yourself thus, don't blame Clover, get yourself a library card.
This book is a real treat, don't let the critics fool you.
* Aside from being a Professor at the University of California-Davis, Clover has also done quite a bit of writing for Rolling Stone Magazine and The Village Voice.
** The M-Bomb: every academician's best friend, Karl Marx.