Stone Reader (2002)

Genres - Culture & Society, Language & Literature  |   Sub-Genres - Biography, Interpersonal Relationships, Literary Studies  |   Release Date - Feb 12, 2003 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 145 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG13
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Mark Moskowitz's Stone Reader presents itself as a "literary" mystery, but it's most valuable as an avid reader's heartfelt exploration of what literature means to him. It's the filmmaker's obvious and well-expressed passion for the subject matter that allows him to get away with the shaky mystery pretenses of his narrative. Shot in an appropriately bare-bones, home-movie style, the film follows Moskowitz on a journey, trying to uncover details of a forgotten author's life, and, more importantly, explicate his own obsession. The film is consistently absorbing, more for the observations Moskowitz and his many subjects share about the nature of literature and the struggles of the author than for the trumped up search for Stones of Summer author Dow Mossman, which inspired the journey. Not that Mossman isn't an interesting figure, but Moskowitz seems to expend more effort making it look like Mossman has vanished than he does in actually tracking him down. For example, why would Moskowitz go off to find the man who designed the book jacket (who turns out to have done it freelance, and who thus knows nothing about the author) before going to Iowa to find the teacher with whom Mossman studied, and to whom he dedicated his novel? Still, Moskowitz's transparent effort to prolong his search, presumably for the sake of maintaining narrative interest in the film, doesn't really detract from the film's many virtues. Stone Reader offers a wonderfully personal account of the joys of reading.