Particles of Truth (2003) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Particles of Truth evokes one woman's life to a series of shrill, depressing embarrassments, a me-me-me spectacle of unexamined grief that allows Elster to condescend to everyone—from men (creeps) to Christians (too stupid to know when a dad is fucking his daughter)—but herself.

- Slant Magazine -

I would like to say that this New York made-for-angst film, Particles of Truth, is the most pretentious film I've ever seen, but upon reflection I am hesitant to make that claim because ... well, because I've seen a lot of Russian movies. In fact, pretentiousness is something I've tried to train myself to withstand. I even went to pretentiousness boot camp, where the drill instructors wake you at five A.M. to watch Tarkovsky movies in the rain, with a full backpack. Despite that training, the combination of pretension and morbidity is just too much for me, and this film has 'em both in spades. The litany of woes here includes AIDS, infidelity, abused childhoods, germophobia, bulimia, loneliness, artistic self-doubt, alienation, extreme self-pity, and mainly just being too boring and precious and sullen to be able to hold anyone else's attention.

In a perilous situation in Man of La Mancha, Don Quijote assured Sancho Panza that there was a cure for everything but death, whereupon his more pragmatic and uncomforted companion opined that the death cure might be the very one they needed. This film was in the same boat as Sancho. Medical science is at a loss to deal with the condition of being too boring and pretentious to hold anyone else's attention, and yet that was the very cure they needed.

Particles of Truth is a painfully self-conscious journey through a world of arty, self-pitying characters. The experience of watching this film is exactly like being cornered at a party by a marginal neurotic who wants to pour out her soul to you and never notices your eyes darting around, searching for a pretext to escape as she recites several of her recent dreams. The film begins with the inevitable bad movie cliché, a woman waking up, her mind not quite conscious, her thoughts swirling like a tornado through a surreal trailer park. She sees faceless people shining flashlights at her. She sees signs that say "scared," and "insecure." Damn, she's lucky to have such an explicit subconscious. When I have dreams, they never come with sub-titles. Her faceless people pound their fists on the table, move their lips, and the words "do it" appear in the corner of the screen. Wow! Her dreams are even close-captioned for the hard of hearing. I never thought of that. I mean, my dreams are usually seen and heard only by me, and I always seem to know what people are saying, but if I dreamt them close-captioned, I would be able to expand my target audience!

Tell ya what, the neurotic insecurity of the writer-director is not just something she poured into a character. It is reflected in the IMDb voting for this film in which dozens of one time voters registered for usernames just to give this film a 10/10. The top 1000 IMDb voters, who may be right or wrong but at least represent real voters with no private axe to grind for any particular movie, score this 5.1/10.  So here's a tip for you insecure youngsters. If you want to create an artificially high score for your obviously-not-a-ten movie, do not cast a whole bunch of ten votes. Cast a bunch of eights and nines, and then maybe an occasional ten. Then also take some of the pseudonyms you have created to write self-serving appraisals of your film and offer comments on other movies. Give Casablanca a nice comment and a ten; give Manos, the Hands of Fate a cynical remark and a one. That way, the voting pattern will look like real votes instead of blatant ballot-stuffing, and the commenters will appear to be outsiders instead of shills for the film.

The film is actually an eccentric romance. The basic underlying premise seems to be that self-absorbed, dysfunctional people can help one another find ... um ... function. Or, failing that, they can at least do some serious fuckin' until they are too tired to feel sorry for themselves. Sure enough, it works like a charm. These two particular nutbars need only two days together to get over their insecurities. Unfortunately, the lead character then gets her big gallery opening and we see her paintings. Oops. Turns out her fears of failure were well grounded.

As for the auteur's own fear of failure?

It, too, was well grounded.



  • The widescreen transfer is anamorphically enhanced (16x9)


Jennifer Elster is seen sitting on the toilet. Nothing much is visible, as she drapes one arm over her breasts and sticks her other hand in her crotch.

Another woman is seen in a thong from the rear.

The Critics Vote ...

The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary. The ballot box has been stuffed, as have the user comments. IMDb's top 1000 voters score it 5.1/10, which is reasonable.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, it's somewhere from a D to an F. I'm not sure. In addition to being boring and pretentious, it is poorly lit and some of the actors recite lines like robots. Although it is not entirely lacking in positives, it has no elements strong enough or significant enough to merit a watch for any reason.

Return to the Movie House home page