FLicKeR iS a new Dream MachHine documentary directed by Nik Sheehan, who is apparently much beloved of rAndOM CapITaL LetTerS. We begin with Sheehan carting a new and beautifully engineered Dream Machine around and testing it out on rock stars, DJs, and old cronies of Gysin, who died in 1986. For the most part, hearing their reactions to the device is no more interesting than hearing about people’s pot trips, but because Sheehan picked some perceptive-if not always particularly germane-trippers, the talking heads give good talk. Sitting in a comfortable New York loft with his eyes closed (which is the best way to let the Dream Machine’s pulsing frequency bring on the alpha waves and audio-visual stimuli that can trigger trance), Sonic Youth’s Lee Renaldo, not only describes beautiful clouds of color but points out the device’s connection to early cinematic devices.
Unfortunately, this is the only time this vital vein of flicker tech is even mentioned in the film. The brain science behind the effect gets a bit more time, but in general this is a very average documentary that blows more chances for excellence and depth than it exploits. The written voice-over material is terribly banal, with potted histories of the Beats and Hassan i Sabbah (illustrated with cheesy CG that brings back 1992 rave graphics), and a legion of unfortunate phrases. For example, Gysin is described as a ‘serious dabbler in the occult’ (a serious dabbler?) and his machine as a ‘portal into the space-time continuum.’ I mean, aren’t we already stuck inside the space-time continuum? Didn’t these guys want to find a way out?