Then there’s a score by Philip Glass (a standby to which Morris has become very accustomed), a metronomic New Age pulse that encourages not thought but the impression that one is thinking. “No one does `existential dread’ as well as Philip Glass,” Morris has offered by way of explanation. “And this is a movie filled with existential dread.” But “doing” existential dread is a far cry from understanding it or, better yet, addressing it.
I used to be a big fan of Glass’s music when I heard it performed live, largely because of its meditative qualities. But one might question the use of meditating on Robert McNamara as opposed to thinking analytically and critically about him. If we meditate on charts and figures or feel existential dread about them without even knowing what they say, there’s a danger that we’ll think we’re doing something serious just by gaping at what’s in front of us. The same thing applies to gaping at McNamara even when we know what he’s saying, in part because of the high gloss of that chugging Glass music. It’s almost as if Morris were characterizing McNamara’s discourse as “Glassy” (rather than simply gassy), the same way Oliver Stone and Anthony Hopkins tried to make Richard M. Nixon seem Shakespearean.
I’ve never been a big fan of Philip Glass’ music, whether live or on record, but it always used to strike me as rather effective when used as background music to a more interesting event taking place in the foreground–a movie, say, or a ballet. But Rosenbaum has put his finger on something significant about Morris’ use of Glass’ music that I sensed (I think) but never completely understood.
A very neat piece of criticism.