It would probably make sense for Village Voice reviewers to stick with material they are familiar with when it comes to documentaries, like sadomasochistic skateboarders or the hip-hop scene in El Paso.
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As any student of undergraduate philosophy will tell you, it's difficult to speak at length about subjects as lofty as time and perception without sounding like a stoner en route from a hotbox to an all-night 7-Eleven. In general, the more elemental the area of inquiry, the more likely that questions are to be received as if appended with an italicized "man" — as in "What's it all mean, man?" The last thing you want to do, if you hope to be taken seriously, is go and get poetic about the nature of the universe.
But this is precisely the approach adopted by Peter Mettler's The End of Time, a vaguely essayistic documentary animated by nothing less than cosmic aspirations.
Early on, Mettler's voiceover narration describes, quite ponderously, the process of refraction by which rainbows are made visible — cause enough for wonder, even if it's the sort of thing explained to schoolchildren.
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Mettler's conclusion is rather more flamboyant: "We all see our own unique rainbows," he reflects, with an absence of irony that in its own way is sort of endearing. The film goes on like this, glacially, for two hours.
More successful are its nonverbal qualities: Mettler, who shot all of this himself, is a deft director of photography, and the years of globe-trotting that constitute his shoot have yielded much natural beauty. One image in particular, of a lava flow in Hawaii, is one of the most plainly gorgeous things I've seen on film all year.
The awe incited by the world is enough — no pontificating necessary, man.
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