‘Inherent Vice’ is great. It’s also very easy to explain as, basically, it’s The Long Goodbye by way of Phillip K Dick. The similarities between this and Altman’s neo-noir are quite striking, but instead of Elliot Gould as the laidback 70s Californian PI, its one of Dick’s stoners from A Scanner Darkly or VALIS navigating this world. Add a splash of Robert Anton Wilson for some exotic and esoteric jokes and false flags and that’s Inherent Vice.
That’s also very much Pynchon and the film plays with most of his usual themes, which is great as far as I’m concerned. It’s huge historical and societal powers and forces pulled down to an intimate human level, pushed through the prism of limited subjective experience and then blown back up to an even larger mythic size in some frighteningly unnamable form. Paranoia basically. The powers and forces ARE there, but do they mean what we think? Its reality as Rorschach. One of my favourite lines in the entire movie is when Doc and friends are pulled over by cops and the girl driving the car leans out to the policeman and asks “Are you The Great Beast?” What’s great is that she could not only mean it on a symbolic level (cops are the bad guys) but in that moment in time and space also on a genuine, literal theological level… and she might even be right in that precise moment of time and space. Who knows?
This film could infuriate or bore some people, and understandably so, but if you’re interested in the death of the counter-culture, innate decay, the shifting and abuse of private and public powers, military paranoia, the impotence of psychiatry, galactic forces and/or dentistry then this will be right up your street.