Mcluhan’s Wake

At first I was put off by the hagiographic and metaphoric aspects of this 2002 Canadian documentary about communications essayist Marshall McLuhan (1911-’80); director Kevin McMahon and screenwriter David Sobelman seem to regard their subject as Moses, Hegel, and Northrop Frye rolled into one. But I was won over by the film’s mimetic process, as McLuhan’s endlessly suggestive (if sometimes fruitless) probes are matched by fragmented voices intoning all the praise and criticism that have circled his work (among the commentators are Gerald O’Grady, Lewis Lapham, Neil Postman, Laurie Anderson, and McLuhan’s son Eric). Ultimately this adds up to a comprehensive and highly ambitious study of McLuhan’s life, thought, and influence. 94 min. (JR)

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