KLAATU YOU (1)
January 1, 2020
One in a weekly series of enthusiastic posts, contributed by HILOBROW friends and regulars, on the topic of our favorite pre-Star Wars science fiction movies.
ZARDOZ | d. JOHN BOORMAN | 1974
In the light of cultural shifts, I am reappraising all my enthusiasms. Such as the film Zardoz, a 1974 science fiction folly by John Boorman. Sean Connery stars as Zed, a savage in a future land, armed and primed for rape and murder by a giant floating stone head that dispenses koans such as “the gun is good, the penis is evil” while vomiting out an avalanche of Winchesters.
During one of his murderous pillages, Zed encounters a colony of immortals. Winsome and self-important, they are part-Eloi, part bourgeois hippie. In one astonishing sequence, the immortals screen a video of two women wrestling in mud in an attempt to arouse Zed. To their collective amusement, he only gets an erection under interrogation from their leader Consuela: she disapproves, his cock smirks in response.
Zardoz has always been gloriously problematic. In his DVD commentary, Boorman admits that the film is an astonishing farrago; when BAFTA gave him a lifetime achievement award, Zardoz was absent from the sizzle reel. Like Taxi Driver and Joker, it rages against masculine impotency; unlike those movies, codified with American arthouse seriousness, its rage is served with such artistic hubris, that its reactionary potential is defused, rendered absurd.
During their group meetings, the immortals inflict thought control upon dissenters as if stultifying liberal consensus could be a superpower. Zardoz comes out of the culture war of the Sixties and you can see how it could be retooled for our current antagonism. Zed is a fascist. Eventually, his fellow savages — identically dressed — follow him into the commune. They set about relieving the immortals of the burden of eternal life. Many of the immortals welcome it: kill me, kill me, they plead.
The libido of Zardoz sounds psychopathic but when viewed it is laughable. Now I apprehend consciously what I once only registered unconsciously. Sean Connery as Zed, with his hairy chest, red proto-mankini, thigh high boots, bandoliers of ammo and Zapata moustache, is the Freudian Id, all sex drive and death drive, a cock holding a rifle. The floating stone heads are superegos on the loose. The immortals are the vanities of egotism. The film as a whole plays like an unloosed mind and its pleasure is the giddiness that comes when an artist unwittingly exposes themselves through a lapse in their art. And I’ve always had a weakness for follies.
KLAATU YOU: INTRODUCTION by Josh Glenn | Matthew De Abaitua on ZARDOZ | Miranda Mellis on METROPOLIS | Rob Wringham on THE INVISIBLE MAN | Michael Grasso on THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN | Gordon Dahlquist on 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY | Erik Davis on DARK STAR | Carlo Rotella on THE OMEGA MAN | Madeline Ashby on KISS ME DEADLY | Adam McGovern on SILENT RUNNING | Michael Lewy on THIS ISLAND EARTH | Josh Glenn on WILD IN THE STREETS | Mimi Lipson on BARBARELLA vs. SINS OF THE FLESHAPOIDS | Vanessa Berry on THE FLY | Lynn Peril on ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT WOMAN | Peggy Nelson on SOLARIS | Adrienne Crew on LOGAN’S RUN | Ramona Lyons on THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH | Kio Stark on THE STEPFORD WIVES | Dan Fox on FANTASTIC PLANET | Chris Lanier on IKARIE XB-1 | Devin McKinney on IDAHO TRANSFER | Mark Kingwell on THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO | Luc Sante on THE TENTH VICTIM | William Nericcio on DEATH RACE 2000 | Rob Walker on CAPRICORN ONE | Gary Panter on ANGRY RED PLANET | David Levine on THE STEPFORD WIVES | Karinne Keithley Syers on ALPHAVILLE | Carolyn Kellogg on IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE | Sara Ryan on ESCAPE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN | Lisa Jane Persky on PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE | Adam Harrison Levy on BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES | Gerald Peary on CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON | Susannah Breslin on A CLOCKWORK ORANGE | Seth on WAR OF THE WORLDS | James Hannaham on GOJIRA/GODZILLA | Lydia Millet on VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED | Matthew Daniel on FANTASTIC VOYAGE | Shawn Wolfe on ROLLERBALL | Erin M. Routson on WESTWORLD | Marc Weidenbaum on COLOSSUS: THE FORBIN PROJECT | Neil LaBute on 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA | Vicente Lozano on DAY OF THE DOLPHIN | Tom Roston on SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE | Katya Apekina on A BOY AND HIS DOG | Chelsey Johnson on THE BLOB | Heather Kapplow on SPACE IS THE PLACE | Brian Berger on THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS | Anthony Miller on THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL.
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