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Film review: Stone Reader

Published: Friday, Sept. 19 2003 8:22 a.m. MDT

Mark Moskowitz tries to track down an author in "Stone Reader."

Robert Goodman

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It's a good thing that "Stone Reader" points out right at the start that it's not really a documentary, because, as such, it fails on even the most basic level.

This filmed travelogue, a cinematic one-man's-diary — or whatever you care to call it — never really gives a reason for the audience to care about its subjects or its central thesis (about a love of reading, which should have been more engaging than this treatment).

Worse, at more than two hours, the film is much too long — by at least 30 minutes. Unlike filmmakers Ross McElwee and Michael Moore, who have succeeded at putting themselves into their own stories, filmmaker Mark Moskowitz doesn't have as engaging a personality.

"Stone Reader" revolves around Moskowitz's efforts to track down Dow Mossman, the author of the acclaimed '70s-period novel "The Stones of Summer." He picked up the book when it was originally published but only recently read and enjoyed it.

However, Moskowitz is horrified to discover that Mossman has pretty much disappeared since then. And he also finds that the novel may have been the only one Mossman wrote.

While this should provide adequate material, he never really describes what it is he finds so captivating about Mossman's writing — nor does he even say what the book is about.

And if that's not frustrating enough, after a while his pointless digressions and endless self-congratulatory moments become extremely tiresome. (Yes, we get the point already: You like to read. Good for you, Mark!)

Still, there are some worthwhile moments. (The interviews with other authors could have made the basis for something considerably more interesting.)

"Stone Reader" is PG-13 for occasional use of strong profanity (including one use of the so-called "R-rated" curse word). Running time: 128 minutes.


E-MAIL: jeff@desnews.com

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