Saw Inherent Vice last Friday. It was everything I imagined a Pynchon novel-adapted-for-film movie would be: profane, hilarious, dense, cathartic, and just plain trippy-as-fuck. What it wasn’t was as pornographic as I thought it would be. Sure, there’s a scene with a completely naked lady and simulated sex, but it certainly wasn’t a “sex scene.” It was something else…but I’m not sure what. And once it was over, I realized I needed to just stop trying to figure out the plot and just experience the movie, to ride shotgun with it as it took us around to the darker places in 1970s LA. And don’t white-knuckle clench the dashboard. Just let it wash over you. Because it’s not the plot that’s important here. It’s the coincidences and karma and paranoia and catharsis, the connections made in a fever dream psychosis drenched in conspiracy.
If you should decide to watch this movie (and I think you should), you need to know about Pynchon’s five “Proverbs for Paranoids,” given in the second part of Gravity’s Rainbow (published 33 years prior to Inherent Vice). Keeping these in mind will help make sense of what is happening in the movie (and by “happening” I am not referring to the sequential events as they relate to the plot).
- You may never get to touch the Master, but you can tickle his creatures.
- The innocence of the creatures is in inverse proportion to the immorality of the Master.
- If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about answers.
- You hide, they seek.
- Paranoids are not paranoids because they’re paranoid, but because they keep putting themselves, fucking idiots, deliberately into paranoid situations.
All of this, of course, leads to my favorite symbol in Infinite Jest: Michael Pemulis’s post of the paranoid king that has the caption “Yes, I’m paranoid–but am I paranoid enough?” Paranoia, my friends, is the key to the movie. Oh, and pizza. We think pizza is the unifying symbol of the movie.