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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Penis is Evil...

Following up from my earlier post about the SF Film Marathon.

I read a post by fellow hamster Marie on her Blog about one of my favorite bad movies, the epic of pretentious hippie psychedelica, Zardoz. Seeing her visceral reaction to this movie made me think about this film, and why I find it so interesting. It’s a bad film, but it is certainly not bad in the same way that Aeon Flux is a bad film. Just a cursory viewing shows that John Boorman put more thought into the first ten minutes of Zardoz than any ten mainstream Hollywood SF action flicks in the past ten years.

Bear in mind that I’m not saying these were great thoughts, or even good thoughts— I’m just saying that it’s very clear that someone was actually thinking about the script, rather than pulling stock character from column A and plot point from column B.

This becomes very clear when contrasting Zardoz with another, more recent, ambitious (and pretentious) dystopia, Equilibrium. Equilibrium is another failure, but a much less interesting one. Despite the similarities of theme between the two films— both are about a rogue individual upsetting a delicately balanced totalitarian regime, a classic SF trope— the latter movie, is so blatantly derivative that the movie becomes as soulless as most of its drugged inhabitants. What it didn’t take from Brave New World, 1984 and Fahrenheit 451 (from which the movie owes most of its plot) it swiped from The Matrix. The complete lack of thought that went into the movie Equilibrium is patently obvious in its absurd Hollywood ending. Given its setup, it was like having Winston Smith pick up a gun, shoot Big Brother live during an Oceana propaganda broadcast and having the state collapse in the final pages of 1984.

Zardoz, on the other hand, while derivative in its own way, is much more effective in integrating its influences into John Boorman’s warped vision. The “vision” in Equilibrium amounted to “hey, this would look cool.”

For those of you who dismiss the idea that Zardoz is any more than an extended drug-induced muddle, consider the following:

In Zardoz we have Borman’s interpretation of a classic misogynistic SF theme, the Barbarian Male overthrowing the Amazons.
(I suspect that a lot who’ve seen the film of you may have just said WTF?)

If we watch the film with the idea that the Vortex is estrogen home base, and the outlands are testosterone exile, a lot of the film’s patent insanity makes sense. Take the costume design, open (or no) shirts to reveal secondary sexual characteristics, or the lack of same— Zed, and his fellow exterminators from the outlands are the only ones permitted to have chest and facial hair. This even explains the extreme weirdness of Arthur Frayn’s character having to draw on a mustache and goatee with a sharpie. It explains all the gratuitous boob shots in the Vortex. It even explains what the Agony Booth calls an exercise in “John Boorman's adolescent sexual fantasies.”

Essentially, the Vortex is Boorman’s fear of what a female-dominated society would end up looking like; impotent effeminate men dominated by a clique of crabby new-age lesbians. Apparently, the only proper antidote for this situation is having a squad of shirtless macho-men shoot the place up.

Well, like I said, I didn’t say they were good thoughts.