Thursday, August 2, 2012

IN RETROSPECT: Seconds (1966)

Post-op on a life change
My theme "In Retrospect" applies to cinema history and not myself, as I just saw John Frankenheimer's, Seconds with my friend, Beau, for the first time last night. What an amazingly disturbing movie! I'm reminded of many titles like, David Fincher's The Game, The Stepford Wives, Abre los ojos (the original Vanilla Sky), David Lynch's Lost Highway and many films containing Outer Limits/Twilight Zone-type surreal plots. Of course you have to consider that Frankenheimer made this only a few films after The Manchurian Candidate, which was also a surreal psychological thriller.

The story follows a man in his late-fifties, played by John Randolf, who is being indirectly contacted by a friend who was thought to be dead. These contacts slowly direct him to a secret organization where for thirty-thousand dollars, they can fake your death, rejuvenate you and give you a new identity to start over. He chooses to leave his lifeless marriage behind and become a young painter, played for the rest of the film by Rock Hudson. Eventually his soul is plagued by the artificiality of his new existence and wonders if he can accept it. 

I don't think I'm going out on a limb to call this a generally forgotten film. My friend and I both agreed that this movie looks way ahead of it's time and easily borrows from the then influencial and innovative French New Wave directors. It's wonderfully shot in black and white and makes great use of wide angle lenses in the way that Terry Gilliam later did with Brazil. I was kind of surprised to see a sudden explosion of mass nudity in the middle of it as well. Aside from it being such a strong psychological thriller, it's filled with subtextual social commentary about the traditional older generation vs the subversive and counter-cultural youth of the time. 

It seems this movie was booed at Cannes during it's premiere and was heavily criticized. What for? I'm having trouble digging up that info. While it drags a little in the middle and asks you to follow a truly bizarre plot, I accepted every minute of this movie as I would accept a series of different dreams in my sleep that change between fantasies of desire to nightmare. The end of this film is a very well crafted twist and truly, truly scary. Real good one.

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