Speed Racer (2008)

2h 15m / PG / Action, Adventure, Comedy

In a 2012 interview with the website HitFix, Lana Wachowski said:

“We go into the Art Institute [of Chicago] and every room there, there are paintings that look completely and utterly different from the other rooms. But in cinema, everything looks the same. And it’s a really aggressive straight-jacket, aesthetically. We started talking about cubism, for instance, and we started talking about could you make a cubist film? […] We said, ‘Okay, we are going to assault every single modern aesthetic with this film.’  And we said, ‘Why do you have to use cuts?  We want to do sequences that are like run-on sentences, stream-of-consciousness sentences that don’t just start and end with the conventional cut, that are just montaged collages and flow [… James] Joyce said, ‘I want to try to demonstrate the way my mind works as I’m getting all of this input and it doesn’t cut things and it doesn’t order things and it doesn’t always make sentences.’  There were moments in Speed Racer, like the races, where we just wanted them to feel like this experiential flowing thing that was transcending normal simple linear narrative.”

Speed Racer isn’t a movie at all, in the conventional sense. It’s a Trojan horse for a formalized experiment in visual presentation. It’s supposed to assault and challenge, baffle and overwhelm the audience. And what better vehicle could one choose for that avant-garde ambush than an iconically groundbreaking, hilariously butchered artifact of animation? Nobody was going to greenlight their idea as original IP, so what has exactly the right kind of cultural baggage to fit the concept of a movie that deliberately denies the viewer’s ability to render it explicable through the normal rules of engagement?

Is Speed Racer Guernica or Finnegans Wake? No. Did they succeed on their own terms? Hard to deny.


This screening is held in the Historic Duncan Auditorium. This space utilizes open seating for this event; seat selection is not required.