Leonard Cohen: Bird on a Wire
Palmer's film is that rare concert doc that isn't for established fans only.
Is a shopping mall a sacred place? Not a question often asked. The provocative documentary "Malls R Us" seriously argues that malls serve similar functions today that cathedrals, temples, parliaments, arenas and town squares did in earlier times. Then the film slowly works its way around to the possibility that they may be a plague upon the Earth.
One thing is clear. From its uncertain beginnings in the 1950s, led by a developer named Victor Gruen, the mall concept has expanded relentlessly until it is essentially the template for a city-state like Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates. They've become so omnipresent, we learn, that in all of North America, there remains only a single location suitable for a new megamall, outside Montreal. In China and Japan, they're reshaping cities and traditional ways of life, and in India, they've inspired class conflicts and street protests in Delhi. You can buy Nikes, Sony TVs and Louis Vuitton luggage in pretty much all of them, and dine at McDonald's.
I'm conflicted. I like malls. My favorite is the Ala Moana in Honolulu. I never buy much of anything. I like to sit in the enormous food court and feel the hum of the city. However, I love meandering through the busy local streets of London, Paris or Toronto, where one little shop follows another, often with a real live owner on the premises.
Ray Bradbury shares my conflict, I learn, in "Malls R Us." The great science-fiction writer, who is interviewed in the film, likes the futuristic vision of the new supermalls, and at the same time yearns for a simpler time when he was growing up in Waukegan and folks walked downtown to do their shopping and see a movie.