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really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  1,537 ratings  ·  190 reviews
From the golden age of art movies and underground cinema to X-rated porn, splatter films, and midnight movies, this breathtaking thriller is a tour de force of cinematic fact and fantasy, full of metaphysical mysteries that will haunt the dreams of every moviegoer. Jonathan Gates could not have anticipated that his student studies would lead him to uncover the secret histo ...more
Paperback, 608 pages
Published April 1st 2005 by Chicago Review Press (first published 1991)
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really liked it Average rating 4.00  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,537 ratings  ·  190 reviews

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Apr 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
4 stars ("I really liked it").

Short version: Despite a troubling (and dated) narrative voice and an off-the-rails ending, I greatly enjoyed this book about hidden film imagery and religious conspiracy.

Long version: The worst part about this book is the narrator/author. He's a curmudgeon (I'm blending the author and narrator together, which I think in this case is fair). He represents the very worst of baby boomer patriarchy. The only women important in this book are ones that sleep with the narr
Gregor Xane
Dec 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010
Totally engrossing. I am a sucker for this kind of story, however. But it is truly a paragon of the "lone investigator gets in over his head" genre. Fantastic! ...more
Becca Balistreri
Sep 23, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who loves film
Theodore Roszak knows film and loves it - the technology, the history, the benchmarks. The mystery he devises is complex, believable, and eerie. Every time I see a film, I think for a moment about the implications of his book.

Just keep telling yourself - it's all just a story.
Oct 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Films freaks and Conspiracy Junkies
If, rather than setting his tales in French bookstores or secluded Italian monasteries, Umberto Eco focused his paranoia about secret societies on the world of film, Flicker is the book that he would write. Crammed to overflowing with film lore and history, Flicker is both a crash course in film theory and a horrifying thriller that makes itself known not through any blood and gore but a very tangible creeping dread that suffuses nearly every page.

Flicker follows the life of Jonathon Gates, a yo
Nov 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: have
Flicker pissed me off. Why? Because it was too long, too suspenseful, and I didn't have a whole lot of free time for reading this week. Impatient to unravel the mystery, I stayed up late, I arose early just to find out what the hell was going to happen!

The book is filled with crap I love to hate: snobby sophistication, scholarly intelligence, critics, conspiracy theories, name-dropping, detailed technological descriptions. And yet despite all this and a prolonged (and yes, masterful) suspense, F
Elizabeth K.
Dec 27, 2009 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2010-new-reads
Oy gevalt, this was terrible.

The set-up was intriguing -- Templar-esque conspiracy has been hiding secret subliminal messages in films. Especially at the beginning of the book, the whole classic film culture is so very present that if you are a film history fan at all it's very easy to get sucked in.

Then, it takes a turn for the annoying. Essentially, the authorial voice seems to be an old guy who maintains that the culture of his youth was insightful, poignant and significant, in contrast to
Krok Zero
Nov 01, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: spring-2011
Disappointing. Please read Steve Erickson's brilliant Zeroville instead. Zeroville is one of the most profound statements ever made about the cinema; Flicker is a silly, overlong Da Vinci Code–esque thriller disguised (poorly) as a profound statement about the cinema. Early chapters limning the world of late '50s cinephilia and the oeuvre of a fictional German director are rather interesting, but problems quickly arise: (1) Roszak fundamentally misunderstands the evolution of culture in the 20th ...more
Moira Russell
Aug 25, 2013 rated it liked it
If you ignore the sexism and the terrible fake Roth sex scenes, it's pretty damn good, especially the last two or three chapters. ...more
Mar 05, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Roszak loves film—he's forgotten more about the movies than I could possibly ever know—and this passion throbs throughout the portions of Flicker that explore the cinematic history of early-modern Hollywood. The entire conceit of a cult B-movie horror director, Max Castle, adumbrating within his forgotten filmography the subliminal strains of a monstrous conspiracy—the evidence for which seeps forth from basement screenings, underground theatres, lusty ex-starlets, and German-accented film crew— ...more
Hatchet Mouth
Mar 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The main character is left to an incredibly cruel fate, which is the only choice in which I disagree with the author here. Have you ever read a book that goes on so long, yet is so juiced to the gills with information that you feel nauseous afterwards? That's how this book made me feel. But man, what a ride it was! If you don't like your books to be overly talky, this might not be for you. There are no train heists or explosions (Lipsky's funeral only sort of counts). Instead, a more quiet, grad ...more
Patrick O'Duffy
Mar 25, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The premise of Flicker is fantastic and compelling - that 1930s B-movie director Max Castle used a fantastic variety of unknown cinematic techniques and tricks to embed hidden messages and images within his horror/noir films, messages that lead back to an ancient religious sect and eventually to a vast conspiracy. There's so much that can be done with that, and reading Flicker is an exercise in impatience, waiting for the story to kick into high gear and the premise to pay off.

It never does.

Nov 05, 2013 rated it did not like it
At some point, around 100 pages into this book's Stephen King-sized length, I stopped being engaged by the story, or existing in the book's world, and just felt like I was talking a walk around the author's hateful and unsympathetic mind with all its self-congratulatory misconceptions and stunted notions of people, movies, and psychology.

The most startling thing about this book is just how unlikable every single character is. It's a parade of hollow cliches and ill-conceived caricatures that the
Robert Beveridge
Theodore Roszak, Flicker (Summit, 1991)

It must be twenty-five years ago now I tried to read Theodore Roszak's novel Bugs. I found it painfully boring, and never finished it. While the name stuck in my head for some odd reason, I never had any desire to read anything else the man wrote.

Jump ahead to 2003, and his out-of-print and previously obscure novel Flicker is announced as the source of Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream)'s latest film. I instantly recognized the name of the guy who wrote
Peter Landau
Mar 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Movies are stupid, bloated commodities that have lost what little charm they showed in their infancy. They’ve grown into a cultural opiate that has moved from church-like communal theaters to isolated viewing in the palm of your hand. A mobile prison. That’s the good news. In FLICKER, an epic novel of moviedom, conspiracy and religious doom by Theodore Roszak, movies are evil. They’re an instrument of fanaticism and apocalyptic fantasy. For almost 600 pages our gullible innocent narrator is on t ...more
Nov 11, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
‘From the golden age of art movies and underground cinema to X-rated porn, splatter films, and midnight movies, this breathtaking thriller is a tour de force of cinematic fact and fantasy, full of metaphysical mysteries that will haunt the dreams of every moviegoer’

Well, bring it on! Except when the book arrived and the front cover advertised it as ‘Sunset Boulevard meet the DaVinci Code’ I felt some concern. This concern, it turns out, was the wrong reaction. The correct response would have bee
Dec 22, 2011 rated it did not like it
I think what appealed to me about the book initially were the similarities between Flicker and one of my favourite books - The Book of Illusions: A Novel by Paul Auster. Both deal with reclusive characters from the movie industry who have mysteriously disappeared (or in the case of Flicker, died) and a protagonist intrigued by their story. Throw in a mysterious religious conspiracy and I should have been hooked.

Unfortunately Flicker read like the unwanted love child of The Da Vinci Code and a tu
Chuck Williamson
Aug 16, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2011
Its nostalgic invocation of 1960s film culture and the gradual regression from art house to grindhouse is so mesmerizing and painstakingly put together that one instantly begins to regret the conspiracy thriller horseshit at the novel's center. Becomes interminably silly as it progresses toward its whimper of an end-game. Desperately in need of a judicious editor. Clunky and shockingly artless at times. Its punchdrunk love for movies captivates even as it gets trapped in narrative cul-de-sacs an ...more
Sep 10, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, trash
Enjoyable trash with lots of golden age cinema references. But the writing is awful, the narrator is unbelievable, the sex scenes are putrid, it's 2-300 pages too long. The author's impression of world-renowned film critic discussion of movies is a little over-clearly from the imagination of a undergraduate film student of mediocre intelligence.

But, you know, I finished it. And really wanted to read other things afterwards.
Aug 06, 2018 rated it liked it
What a long-distance run of a book. I enjoyed it and did manage all 600+ pages, but mostly because I kept waiting for the scary stuff to happen. It didn't really, but that's fine because by then I was enthralled by all the film history stuff. If you can get past the sexist protagonist (and you're super into weird facts about the early days of film, as I apparently am), then give it a go. ...more
Bill Lawrence
Jul 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Possibly the best book I have ever read. Brilliant, fascinating and surprising throughout. It reminded why I love movies, cinemas and programming. I bought 3 copies over the years and still have two. I know where the third is, my loan copy to get others to enthused about this book
Jun 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
I was totally captivated by this sinister, disturbing book from start to finish. And it takes a lot for a novel to captivate me.
Aug 17, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
If I had known this was going to heavily feature occult conspiracy nonsense I would have skipped it. It’s overlong, features a comically large number of sex scenes, and has a really obnoxious main character. It’s like a grumpy old man version of “Under the Silver Lake”, except instead of Nintendo references this name drops foreign films from the 1950s.
After trying three times to read this book, I'm figuring it's just not for me. I got to page 75 this time, but I just kept moving on to other books. ...more
Imagine that Umberto Eco were a critical film scholar and maintained his yen for secret societies, ancient Christianity, and centuries-old conspiracies.
Betsey Smith
Mar 13, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: mystery, own-it
There were parts of this book I so loved. -the history of movies, movie making tricks, the small art-house theater. But (and you knew there'd be a but) I couldn't finish it. About half way trough I lost the plot - almost literally. I saw where it was going but didn't really care. The mystery wasn't intriguing enough to keep going. The pace was a bit slow but the glimpse into the film industry (real or not) moved me through the first several chapters. If you're not interested in movies for movies ...more
Apr 05, 2020 rated it it was ok
Too long, too dry, too male.
Jeff Raymond
Sometimes a book hits all your interests all at once, and there's really nothing else quite like it out there. Flicker, as a book, is closing in on 25 years old, and yet this book felt far too much like something that was relevant and on-trend today as it may have been when it was written, and that says a lot.

The story, on the surface, is about a man, Jonathan Gates, who falls in with the art film crowd and becomes enamored with a specific filmmaker who specialized just as much in important arts
Alex Acton
May 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I did not see this book coming. At all. It starts simply enough as a fictional story about a young man discovering the beauty and artistry of film, then becoming particularly engrossed in the work of an obscure German director, Max Castle. As the story progresses, our protagonist grows and learns, traveling deeper and deeper into a trench of mystery that gives way to a secret religious order, an underground conspiracy to corrupt mankind and subtle manipulations of some of the most famous films o ...more
Jul 23, 2015 rated it did not like it
I GIVE UP. This book started out excellent, in a pulp fiction-y page-turning guilty-pleasure kind of way; really atmospheric and interesting. I was loving it. But about halfway through, it degenerates into nonsensical 'global conspiracy' crack which is totally stupid and unconvincing. The female characters are entirely filtered through whether the main character wants to bang them or not, even in the case of his first girlfriend who is supposed to be a kind of intellectual mentor. It's very sexi ...more
Kim Z
Sep 24, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: fans of film and/or conspiracy
Would you believe that trashy movies are used to deliver extremist propaganda that threatens our very existence? This book describes an elaborate conspiracy, seeded over a thousand years ago, that has grown with each innovation in entertainment technology. Despite how implausible that may sound, the characters and situations in this book are described so vividly, with just enough historical detail, to keep the story compelling.

Unfortunately, once the details of the conspiracy are described, the
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Theodore Roszak was Professor Emeritus of history at California State University, East Bay. He is best known for his 1969 text, The Making of a Counter Culture.

Roszak first came to public prominence in 1969, with the publication of his The Making of a Counter Culture[5] which chronicled and gave explanation to the European and North American counterculture of the 1960s. He is generally credited wi

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