Gambling, Gods and LSD

3 stars

Gambling, Gods and LSD assumes an extraordinary amount of patience on the part of the viewer. How much? Three hours worth, and that's with no narrative and without the conceptual progression of a documentary. Instead, according to the press info, "imperceptibly, almost organically, documentary and inner images blend with musical movement to form a flowing stream in which the present shimmers through in constantly changing realities."

In other words, Gambling, Gods and LSD is a random collection of footage shot over four years and strung together with moody music. Rather than ascribe meaning to any of his variously collected footage, filmmaker Peter Mettler has handed the job of making sense of any of it over to the audience. Sometimes there's narration, but most of the time there isn't. There's no context at all; the point is that there is no point. Or rather, the point is that you should take another giant suck off your joint or pop another handful of mushrooms and some crazy connection will make itself clear to you. Unfortunately, it's not yet okay to do that kind of thing at the Metro, so we're left with a 3-hour show of excellent video that nonetheless has a way of very quickly making you feel like you're wasting your time.

Gambling, Gods and LSD is free with time; that is, it's free with *your* time. Once you've signed on to watching this 180-minute extravaganza, Mettler has no problem with spending minutes and minutes gazing at rainfall on Swiss streets or looking at rocks in the park. It's that same impulse that makes an amateur videographer point the camera out the window of a moving car and assume that seeing the road go by for five minutes is somehow interesting to the audience. 

The weird thing is, it's actually good footage --excellent, really. Mettler's got the videographer's eye for the good shot as he spots and records a rattlesnake oiling across a desert road, or picks out from a crowd of worshippers a woman dancing with twice the energy and one-third the rhythm of the others. Spending minutes checking out the Toronto Air Traffic Contol Tower isn't probably something most people would really want to do, but when Mettler does it, he shoots it well, with cool dying-of-the-day colors.

And in his travels he's seen and recorded some curious things. He's gone to an ICBM silo that's been turned into a museum. He's attended the demoltion of a Las Vegas hotel. He's seen wacky Torontonians dancing in religious fervor at the airport. He's watched Brahmins celebrating Arattu at the Trivundrum Beach and spent time with the inventor of the Erotic Electro Stimulation chair.

If only he had something to say. Good shots, good footage… again and again, the movie makes you wish you were watching a movie about what you're seeing. But you're not. You're just flipping through Mettler's video photo album of the time he went to the Toronto airport. With all the great cinematography, it's a bit of burn to get this stoned "the connection is that there is no connection" copout crap.

Now, what would really hit the spot would be something about half this long, preferably all about one subject. And as it turns out, that's the exact description of Picture of Light, the Mettler film that follows Gambling, Gods and LSD at the Metro. They didn't screen Picture of Light, but apparently it's about Mettler's attempts to film the Northern Lights. Now that sounds like a movie!