Reviews: The Daydreamer's Notebook (2017)

When working as a movie critic, you will often be treated to screeners of all types and qualities. Some are solid, some are bad, and some might even be good.The Daydreamer’s Notebook is that project. It is a diamond in the rough, a piece that poignantly explores and reflects on a filmmaker’s life and sexuality through four decades. It is an intimate and beautiful gem of a movie.

The Daydreamer's Notebook is an anthology of seven shorts by director Michael J. Saul. The seven experimental vignettes reflect his creative daydreams over a 40-year period intercut with comments by the filmmaker on his work and challenges of growing up as a gay teen in the 1970s. As mentioned earlier, this is not a full narrative movie but rather a collection that is the highlight of the filmmaker’s obsession with daydreaming. Some of the pieces are fragments of lost films, horror films, or even nature films set to the music of a deceased collaborator.

After watching this, I did some research and found that he has two other anthology pieces entitled True Love (2004) and Crush (2009) that are both about gay relationships. While sexuality is discussed in the film, this collection is more about naturalism and the world around us.

The shorts themselves are mostly experimental and fragmented. They are not focused on narrative but rather what we can pick up from the image and sound put on screen. There is no dialogue in any of the short films in this collection, which is a deliberate choice that forces the viewer to interpret the actions of the actors. The scenes involving nature that are a recurring element in this collection are reminiscent of the work of directors like Terrence Malick in their intimacy and shooting style. Other sequences in this collection, in particular,  “The Cipher and the Boar”, are inspired by Stanley Kubrick’s work in The Shining. I imagine that some will not enjoy the work Saul has made; it is dialogue free and very visually focused in a way that can alienate certain viewers who do not enjoy experimental cinema. However, I found him to be an interesting visual storyteller and would love to see more of his work.

My biggest complaint about this collection is that while I found Saul’s filmmaking interesting; I was more intrigued in his background. What makes him tick? This  is reminiscent of another film I saw recently, David Lynch: The Art Life. Both  explore a fascinating artist and an obsession of theirs. Both, while compelling and interesting, left me chomping at the bit to know more about whom these people really are. 


-Liam S. O'Connor