Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Want something a little different? Sonia Barrett's dizzy documentary, THE BUSINESS OF DISEASE

If the page after page of written do's-and-don'ts that appear at the opening of this new would-be documentary don't make you a little wary of what will follow, I'll be surprised. First, we're told to take charge of our life and health, and then there's a disclaimer about all the logos we're going to see in the film and how these do not mean that the companies themselves sponsored or in any way financed this movie (as if). No, THE BUSINESS OF DISEASE instead spends its time flipping back and forth between a bunch of would-be "experts" on everything from sound to light to music to health to... I don't even know quite what some of these people's claim to fame is supposed to be. It's as though the documentary, as envisioned by its writer/producer/director Sonia Barrett (shown below) and its "editorial department" (click and scroll way down), offers some weird visual equivalent of the old jokester game of 52 Pickup. That's how bizarre is the entire organization of this film.

The movie begins by quoting from those very au courant folk Hippocrates and Thomas Edison, as visuals of the aforementioned logos fly by to some heavy-handed, pulsating music. Then the "experts"  begin bantering about herbs (better grow your own) and organic food and the body as energy and epigenetics and building a house around "your signature sound."  (Sound is very big here: We also hear about listening to the sound of one's refrigerator as well as sounds from outer space.) But it's all anecdotal, and -- via the manner in which it is presented -- comes off as faintly ridiculous.

Did nobody bother to tell Ms Barrett about the idea of organizing her material in order to make a case for her main idea?  Her thesis -- which seems to come down to "take charge of your life and health" -- is way too broad to begin with, but her examples of how we ought to do this don't begin to coalesce.

So we flip back and forth between speakers (and can't help wondering who gathered these people under the same roof and why they're even that important). One fellow, a certain Hal A. Huggins, DDS, has this immortal line to tell us: The "disease is gonna get more worse."  And yes, I am quoting verbatim.

We learn that sun glasses and sunscreen are bad for us because they don't allow the skin to repair itself. We hear about light and our "age of light," and art in the face of your cat. And I believe, somewhere in the midst of all this, someone tells us that our convictions should be flexible. Flexible convictions? What a great idea!

There are probably a few (very few) good things to be found in this mess of a movie, but I'll be damned if I could ferret them out from all the twaddle on display in this nitwit documentary. Among other oddities, it seems to be thoroughly against Obamacare. (It wants us to take charge of our life but has damn little to say about how we might afford to do that.)

When you keep using mere anecdotes as "proof," you're in big trouble. But, then, I suppose you would have to be intelligent enough to realize this. Instead, the speakers here, and especially filmmaker Barrett, appear to be blithely unaware of this or maybe have been roped into taking part in something from which they expected a lot more.

In the spirit of sparing undue embarrassment, I have deliberately left out any names of our guest lecturers pictured above (except for dentist Huggins, who is not shown), but I will note that the movie ends with yet another disclaimer. Unlike the earlier ones that are left on screen long enough for your to read them five or ten times, this one I think you might actually want to read. But it is gone before you can even do that.

The Business of Disease, which I feel has no business opening in an actual theater and roping in any poor paying customers, hits a New York City screen (the Quad Cinema) this Friday, February 20, and then arrives in Los Angeles one week later at the Laemmle Music Hall 3. Your move. 

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