“We should calmly ask ourselves if the world we have conceived in accordance with reason is itself a viable and complete world… it is a world of the operation subordinated to the anticipated result, a world of sequential duration… it is not a world of the moment.”
The first rule of “Postcards From the Future” is: you can talk about “Fight Club”. The second rule of “Postcards From the Future” is: you can talk about Chuck Palahniuk. Note the trend? That’s right, there’s pretty much nothing off limits in this chronicle of the cult author/punk philosopher/literary miscreant’s own four-day conference in Edinboro, Pennsylvania. You know, life’s just not fair. My college gets Big Bird as their commencement speaker (okay, the guy who voiced Big Bird anyway), while Edinboro gets one of my favorite contemporary authors for four freaking days! I am Jack’s insane envy.
The Palahniuk faithful, who range from the super cool to the kind-of-creepy, converged in this small western Pennsylvania town for the second time in April of 2003. (The first “PFF” conference was in 2001.) They came (from all over), they saw, they kicked some Shatner ass, in the figurative sense, of course. One kid (Dallas Bowyer), surely not a day older than 16, took a bus all the way from Portland, Oregon with nothing but a sleeping bag, some drug money, and a lifetime’s worth of sordid tales in tow. Even Chuck was a bit worried. So what’s the deal? Was the famously anti-consumerist underground hero just out hawking his latest novel? Was this some kind of Chucky P love fest, groupies and all? Hardly. The “Postcards From the Future” festival, originally called “Project Mayhem” (it was swiftly rejected), is a meeting of the minds of sorts, a workshop where like-minded (i.e. intelligent, open-minded, slightly perturbed at the state of things) individuals come together every two years for a liberating, creative outpouring of ideas. Hey, Chuck’s come to terms with it, so it must be cool.
In a way, it’s almost impossible to screw up a film about Chuck Palahniuk, the genius (I’m sure he hates that word, by the way) author of modern classics like “Survivor”, “Choke”, and “Lullaby”. (For the uninitiated, you’ve all seen “Fight Club”, read these books for Christ’s sake!) You simply turn your cameras on the guy and let him go. He’s got a million stories to tell and I’ll be damned if each one isn’t as fascinating or gut-busting or profound as the last. (I’ve personally never been as inspired to write as when I first saw “Fight Club” in theaters. It is one of the few films I even remember the release date of: October 15, 1999!) But the rookie filmmakers from Kinky Mule Films (Dennis Widmyer, Kevin Kolsch, and Josh Chaplinsky) go one better than that. They definitely give Chuck his fair share of the spotlight, but they also wisely turn the cameras on the reason there even is a festival: Chuck’s freethinking fans, the would-be literary anarchists. The motley assortment of characters include festival organizers Christian McKinney and Professor Janet Kinch, young Dallas, and my personal favorite, Dr. Tropical, a character who quite thoroughly snorts the line between endearingly quirky and annoying as hell.
Beyond just the talking head approach, the film also effectively uses well-timed clips from Chuck’s various talk show appearances, book signings (they more closely resemble rock concerts), and readings (check out the guy who passes out because of one story’s violence), as well as montage, stills of his book covers (foreign too) and the occasional Nine Inch Nails track. (Alas, no “Fight Club” clips. Too expensive?) “Postcards From the Future” is far from the static, talk-heavy doc I had at first feared. This is a well-structured, crafty bit of filmmaking, no matter how much experience its makers had. However the Kinky Mule guys got hooked up with Chuck’s official fan club, The Cult, it was clearly an ingenious pairing. (Somebody please finance their next film, “Our Lady of Sorrow” now!) This may not exactly be the be-all-and-end-all “Chuck Palahniuk Documentary” it is billed as, but it’s probably the closest thing we’ll ever get. Anyway, Chuck would be proud, and apparently is. If you’re a devoted reader or spiritual comrade or even just a “Fight Club” fan, seek this film out. If you miss it, you’ll be missing the intriguing “Death of Protest” lecture, the hilarious Christmas pixies story, and the infamous Silly String Incident. In the words of Albert Camus, “I rebel, therefore I am.” The moment, is now.