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Dear The Machinist,

When we meet, your reputation preceded you. As with any individual heavily recommended, their legend leading the way, I am filled with a sense of foreboding upon meeting you – perhaps rightfully so. Be that as it may, you still manage to enter my awareness almost like an innocuous specter. This says a lot for the man, Christian Bale, who lends you your power. It’s all too clear there is something drastically wrong here and though we interact on such civilized terms there seems to be an undercurrent into which I just don’t want to delve. And in the face of that reluctance, there begin the low key hints and revelations about your existence.

Do they propel me forward, wanting to know more? No, not really, but you just keep telling me, don’t you. I think that is when I realize the gargantuan effort Christian expends to have me not turn away from you in abject disdain and chalk this up as yet another exposition on some severely twisted human being. As time passes, astonishingly, his effort is what makes telling this story possible. Sure, his physical manifestations are amazing – in the same vein as many of the great cinematic portrayals – but that isn’t all he brings to you. No, he brings subtlety that I can’t remember seeing in this sort of story. He makes you human and vulnerable which so gently reminds me that there was once a soul inside you somewhere. This ‘thing’ he brings is what saves your message and sets him in rarified company with other legendary storytellers of our time.

But back to you. As the cracks of madness appear and broaden and the unreality of all of your varied issues surface, I see from a safe place outside just how drastic this low key situation is and how deeply the insomnia pervades your existence. I admit it makes me squirm and cringe to wonder what is at the root of all this. Is it insanity for insanities sake? No, through both of Christian’s female foils, Stevie and Marie, you show there is a regular guy in there about to drown. When your inner self does drown – as invariably occurs – it’s also clear it won’t be pretty at all. As the clues mount and you show me your confusion that coincidentally mirrors mine, I find amazement in the fact that I just want this to end and be understood just as much as you do. While I tip my again to Christian for this nuance and brilliance, you slide down the rest of the ramp to doom and we learn about what got you there in the end and it is as tragic as you are.

When you nod there after the telling and I pause to take in your revelation I find I must add this tale to the list of great films I only want to watch once. I am struck too by the similarities of tone to Requiem For A Dream and the human similarities to the happy ending of Bella, yet I also know I just don’t want to know you in the end. I chalk our encounter up to one of life’s little detours and the only value it can offer me is that of being a twisted cautionary tale.

So with reverence and respect and no real love I bid you adieu.

Rick

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