Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Olde Review: Zardoz

This was part of a series of reviews of the ASUW Film series back in the '70's. Except for some punctuation, I haven't changed anything from the way it was presented, giving the kid I was back in the '70's a bit of a break. Any stray thoughts and updates I've included with the inevitable asterisked post-scripts.

This Saturday's ASUW films in 130 Kane are John Boorman's "Zardoz" and Brian DePalma's "The Phantom of the Paradise"

"Zardoz" (John Boorman, 1974)

"Zardoz speaks to you, his chosen ones:
You have been raised up from brutality, to kill the brutals who multiply and are legion. To this end, Zardoz, your God, gave you the gift of the gun"

Ooooo-kay! That little snippet from "Zardoz's" soundtrack* is a perfect example of what is right, and what is wrong with the film.

What we see during that resounding speech is a huge stone god-head floating over lush grass-lands while chanting subjects on horseback an on foot gaze, entranced by it. And it's a beautiful shot--nicely framed, beautifully photographed--even the special effect in the shot is nearly invisible. The sound is nice. The music, mostly the second movement of Beethoven's seventh symphony, is perfectly suited to this movie.

But the words emanating from that nicely modulated voice are really silly.

And so, in a nut-shell, there is "Zardoz"--due to the great abilities of its director John Boorman, whose previous film was "Deliverance" ** (and who is currently working on "The Heretic: Exorcist Part II"),*** it is a beautiful film to look at and listen to, but it is ultimately a very silly movie.

Maybe the script isn't too important. It is possible to ignore it when Boorman is communicating mood through his magnificent images and stately music. It is in the moments of pure image and music that "Zardoz" achieves the kind of epic stature that Boorman obviously wanted. And it is fun while the inspiration lasts, which is about half-way through it. It's about this time that the audience will wonder how in hell the damned thing is going to end. It's obvious by seeing the ending that Boorman wondered himself, and couldn't come up with anything other than a cop-out. Well, all I can say is enjoy what you see--it's quite fantastic. Try to ignore the plot.

And once and for all, maybe you should re-appraise your view of Sean Connery as an actor. It is "Zardoz" that slowly eased him out of the James Bond stereotype he had been mired in for so long, and into his current stream of swashbuckling roles, and in the very difficult role of Zed, the pivotal role of the film, Connery is nothing short of perfect. And so, "Zardoz" is a mixed bag of fine acting, the beautiful image and the hackneyed script.

Broadcast on KCMU-FM on November 5th and 6th, 1975

Um.....maybe the beautiful image. It's hard to say that Connery was doing stellar work running around in thigh-high boots and a red diaper (see below), spouting inane dialog, albeit opposite Charlotte Rampling. Truth of the matter is "Zardoz" is what Boorman made when he wasn't allowed to make "The Lord of the Rings," and Connery played Zed after Burt Reynolds, who was cast, (wisely) bowed out. "Zardoz" is just a stoopid, pretentious fantasy wanna-be, that keeps you guessing about where all this stuff came from--and when it's revealed to be an extremely simplistic (silly) conceit, you want to walk out. It all ends with one of those teen-pleasing Riots Against Authority that were popular "in the day," and sort of sputters to an ending of sorts. It's just a bad, bad film.

So was "The Heretic." Incredibly, someone gave Boorman money to make another film, and though it veers awfully close to the same sort of sophomoric kookiness of it predecessors, his film of "Excalibur" was a stylistic triumph for the director. It's a good thing, too. John Boorman is a fine director, when he has good material (which he can write, as well).

Connery was just coming into his own as his own actor away from
007, with good work in "Murder on the Orient Express," and "The Wind and the Lion." His best work was still ahead. "The Man Who Would be King" would open five weeks after this review was written.

* These reviews were accompanied by sound-clips or music from each of the films. This one started with that pretentious quote. FCC rules kept me from continuing it. Wanna read it? (Well, don't say I didn't warn ya...) "The gun is good. The penis is evil. The penis shoots seeds, and makes new life to poison the Earth with a plague of men, as once it was, but the gun shoots death, and purifies the Earth of the filth of brutals. Go forth . . . and kill!"

** Need to do a review of "Deliverance" one of these days. That is a great film.

*** Well, we won't bring that one up, only to say that Boorman got much better about the subject matter of his films.

Okay--Connery didn't want to play "Gandalf" because
he didn't understand "The Lord of the Rings"--but he understood this??
Total Film magazine rated Connery's costume at number one of "the dumbest decisions in movie history" in 2004.

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