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GAMBLING, GODS AND LSD(director/writer: Peter Mettler; cinematographer: Peter Mettler; editors: Peter Mettler/Roland Schlimme; music: Peter Bräker/Dimitri de Perrot/Fred Frith/Henryk Mikolaj Gorecki/Jim O’Rourke; Runtime: 180; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Cornelia Seitler/Alexandra Rockingham Gill/Ingrid Veninger; Odeon Films; 2002-Canada/Switzerland-in English with some Swiss and English subtitles)
“Plays out as a bold meditative essay on transcendence and our relationship to nature.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A maddening personal and highly unusual three-hour philosophical travelogue film by Toronto-based experimental filmmaker Peter Mettler (“Picture of Light”/”The Top of his Head”/”Eastern Avenue”), cinematographer for Atom Egoyan among many others, that plays out as a bold meditative essay on transcendence and our relationship to nature. It hops across four countries and cultures, and it relates those places to man’s own inner spiritual trip to find the meaning of life.

Things start perking at the Toronto International Airport, as among a number of things covered there the one that stands out is the fervor of a religious revival meeting where members of some kind of a fundamentalist Christian religious congregation exhibit mass spasmodic ecstasy visions of their savior Jesus. It then heads to the deserts of the isolated Monument Valley, one of Hollywood’s favorite spots to shoot Westerns, and onto the crowded casino scene in Las Vegas that also comes with other pleasures to its hedonistic seekers such as strip clubs and electrical sexual pleasure gadgets for those who want to get off to be stimulated without a mate. It then leap frogs to Switzerland, where Mettler’s family hails from. Mettler goes for many street scenes, where he encounters a childhood friend who in his adult life has been fighting a losing battle with substance abuse and loneliness and a junkie couple who extol heroin as helping with their enlightenment (with all due respect, lots of luck on that one!). The filmmaker then searches out a pastoral utopian river from his childhood memory. Albert Hofmann, the Swiss scientist discoverer of LSD, is tracked down in his lab and offers his opinion that his drug increases one’s awareness (I buy that if you can find the pure LSD made in his lab and not the street kind cut with speed). It’s then off to India, where one lady tells us in her culture there’s no difference between God and a stone. Another tells us there’s a difference between looking for something and just looking. There’s also the India of modern technology that coexists with its beliefs in divinity, of Bollywood, of sacred ancient rituals and of its cravings to find an inner peace in such an unstable world.

This unstructured and uneven eclectic film takes us wherever the restless Mettler chooses to place his film crew since he started filming in 1997, and like a long meditation it has its exhilarating and momentous moments plus at times it’s easy to fade out and lose track of the way. It reminds us of all the thrill seekers we viewed, who can’t stay on a perpetual high but must come down for a dose of reality like all earthlings must. Mettler wants to reassure us that the world looks strange and different to the global traveler only because every part of the world has their own answers to the meaning of life, but in actuality he has found we all have the same desires, same gestures and same questions. Whatever … this is a compelling watch, it mixes just about everything it can find into its receipe and comes up with a tasty and original film for the thinking person who can handle such a mind fuck of a bumpy ride.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”