Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Dystopian December Quick Picks and Pans

The 10th Victim (1965) In the near future (which looks conspicuously like the ‘60s), a deadly international competition known as “The Hunt,” consisting of ten matches, alternating between hunter and victim, has taken the place of wars. Caroline Meredith (Ursula Andress), in her tenth match, pursues Marcello (Marcello Mastroiani), but is she the hunter or the hunted? Marcello plays it cool as an iceberg, seemingly impervious to her considerable (ahem) charms. Elio Petri’s film, based on Robert Sheckley’s story “Seventh Victim,” is big on style, featuring outrageous fashions (including a famous gun brassiere) bold color compositions and a sardonic sense of humor. Unlike many other dystopian films, it never takes itself too seriously, maintaining a consistently anarchic tone.

Rating: ****. Available on Blu-ray and DVD

The Lobster (2015) Colin Farrell stars as David, a recently divorced man, forced to interact with other singles in a strictly monitored resort. Per government mandate, he has 45 days to form a new relationship or he will be transformed into an animal of his choice. Everyone plays games, suppressing his or her emotions, setting up walls, and faking compatibility in a desperate attempt to find a mate.

Director/co-writer Yorgos Lanthimos’ metaphorical fantasy illustrates how those who are single (either by choice or design) are frequently shunned by society, regarded as second-class citizens. Deception and inauthenticity are the rule, rather than the exception, as the characters sacrifice happiness for self-preservation. The Lobster seems a trifle overlong by at least a half hour, establishing the parameters early and reinforcing the aforementioned themes, ad nauseum. I found it difficult to be emotionally connected to any of the characters, but it’s worth a look, due to its intriguing absurdist concept.  Warning: Animal lovers might find one scene difficult to take, which depicts cruelty against a dog (reinforcing the heartless nature of one of the singles).  

Rating: ***. Available on Blu-ray, DVD and Netflix

Zardoz (1974) Mention writer/director John Boorman’s Zardoz to anyone who’s seen it, and most people tend to fall into the “love it” or “hate it” camps. Well, I don’t love it, nor do I hate it, but after watching it a few times (I’ve seen it roughly once each decade), I’ve alternately come to three schools of thought: 1) It’s a misunderstood work of genius, 2) It’s a misguided exercise with some good ideas, or 3) it’s a pretentious piece of crap. Lately, I tend to gravitate toward the second opinion. Sean Connery (wearing a fetching red bikini sort of thing) stars as Zed, a representative of the Brutals, a primal man tasked with exterminating non-Brutals in the wasteland. He infiltrates the sheltered world of the Eternals, where he’s examined like a specimen, feared and jeered. We learn that Zed may hold the key to their salvation or destruction. Charlotte Rampling co-stars as Consuella, one of the Eternal leaders, who deems Zed too dangerous to live. Zardoz explores themes of gender inequality, societal stagnation, mortality and creativity, but it’s a jumble of ideas that seems caught up in its own cleverness. Is the world of Zardoz reality or nothing more than a pageant? Who knows?

Rating: **½ . Available on Blu-ray and DVD

Equilibrium (2002) Writer/director Kurt Wimmer’s vision of an imperfect future starts out promising enough. After World War III, society has been rebuilt from the rubble. The totalitarian government enforces mandatory daily doses of Prozium, a drug designed to suppress all emotions (considered the cause of wars and societal ills). Christian Bale plays John Preston, a high-ranking officer, tasked with detecting emotions and wiping out anyone who opposes the oppressive regime. It’s too bad the film gives up in the last act, eschewing any pretense of thoughtful reflection. 1984 gives way to The Matrix, with John artfully kicking butt against the bad guys. This is conjecture on my part, but the conflicting tone appears to be the result of studio pressure to provide more spectacle to an otherwise somber mood piece. It’s a shame the filmmakers took the easy route with empty-headed action, because Equilibrium features some good performances, especially Emily Watson as Mary O’Brien, a condemned prisoner who helps John see the value of emotions.

Rating: **½. Available on Blu-ray and DVD


  1. I agree with your thoughts on The Lobster.
    I had been wanting to see it for a while, but felt disconnected from the characters.
    Still, it really is original.

    1. Yeah, it's something else. I can't say I've seen anything quite like it before.

  2. Hey Barry, Congratulations you are one of my 15 nominees in the Versatile Blogger category... https://weegiemidget.wordpress.com/about/my-blogging-awards/5-fabulous-bloggers/

    1. Awww....Thanks, Gill! I'm truly honored! My January is booked solid, but I will plan on doing a post in February. You're the best! :)