Degenerate Art: The Art and Culture of Glass Pipes (Marble Slinger, 2011)
Here’s another one I swear I wrote a review for, but I can’t find any evidence that it exists; I seem to have dreamed it. Thankfully, if it was a dream, I remember most of what I’d written.
Here’s rule number one: you cannot start your movie bitching about your art not being taken seriously outside drug culture and then spend the rest of a documentary glorifying said art within drug culture and expect to be taken seriously in any way. That, unfortunately, is the exact tack taken by Degenerate Art: The Art and Culture of Glass Pipes, which in the rest of the world we call bongs. One of the interviewees towards the beginning of the film goes on for what seems like hours, but is probably only forty-five seconds or so, about how glass pipemaking is a legitimate art that deserves to be recognized for something other than being vessels in which to pack one’s marijuana and get stoned. And really, the man’s got a point; like any glassblowing, there is a great deal of skill involved in the making of glass bongs, and the makers tend towards bright colors and fantastical designs, for what (to me, anyway) are quite obvious reasons.
And then you get the rest of the movie. Or, at least, the rest of the version I saw, which according to IMDB is almost an hour and forty minutes shorter than the original release. The version showing on Netflix and Amazon runs seventy-six minutes; IMDB shows the original version movie as having a running time of 170 minutes. Insert standard joke about time flowing differently when stoned here. And—I just found this out about thirty seconds before I wrote that sentence (man, that original review must have been a dream—and before you ask, no, I haven’t toked up in an amount of time that can be measured in decades at this point; I don’t even smoke tobacco anymore…)—it has me wondering whether the hundred minutes I didn’t see were all about validating that guy’s viewpoint and that the shorter cut showing through the streaming outlets was made specifically for the Saturday-night-munchies crowd. I’m now half-tempted to give this the gentleman’s C until I can track down the original cut. Except that, well, there’s still seventy-odd minutes of guys following the Grateful Dead—or, infinitely worse, Phish and the Dave Matthews Band—around the country and getting baked. I’d rather watch paint dry.
The few times the movie isn’t basted in cannabis, when the filmmakers are tracing the history and evolution of glassblowing as it specifically related to glass bong-making, are interesting and well worth your time. I suspect most of the rest of the most easily available version won’t be unless you’re as stoned as some of the interviewees. **