A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 30 – Zardoz

Zardoz – March 30, 2010

So. Yeah. Zardoz. A movie starring a shirtless Sean Connery in a red loincloth and leather thigh-high boots. A movie that starts out with some bizarre exposition and a line about the penis being evil. It’s a lot like a fever dream, really. A dystopian fever dream about sex and death and the perils of immortality. Fitting, then, that the main character is played by Sean “Ramirez the Egyptian Spanish Peacock” Connery. Sadly, there’s no beheading in Zardoz. What there is, is a lot of ADR dialogue. There is so much talking in this movie. What should be the beginning of the climax is actually a bunch of the characters reading famous literature out loud, but only in snippets, while being lit by slides of classical art.

I tried to give a basic overview of the plot to a friend and it’s kind of impossible to describe succinctly while also sharing the true scope of the movie and what makes it more than just a sixties dystopia scifi flick. Because it’s not. It’s truly not. You really have to know about the giant stone head and the diatoms and the “touch teaching” to understand just why this is one of the strangest movies we own.

Now, I’m all for dystopias. I find them fascinating. I had the pleasure of hearing the author William Tenn speak a few years back when WorldCon was in Boston, and he spoke about how he believed that every utopia conceived of will always be someone’s dystopia. That no matter what your perfect and ideal world would be, it would be hell to someone else. There is no universal utopia. I think it’s a brilliant observation, and one which movies and literature about dystopias have to be built on in some way. In Zardoz, the dystopia the movie is set in also has what was planned as a utopia, but which is failing. It’s not a utopia for everyone, and for those who don’t fit, and for those who aren’t included, it’s horrible.

You see, the world at large is an untamed wasteland, populated by uncivilized people who are kept in check by a group of “chosen” men who are given weapons by what they believe is a god. The god, Zardoz, is a big stone head that dispenses guns and the instructions to control the others, either by killing them or enslaving them. One of the chosen men, Zed (Sean Connery) learns (is taught) how to read and is enlightened. He stows away inside the head and kills the man piloting it, thereby managing to get into a hidden valley where the secret ruling class lives.

Turns out what’s going on is that there are these “vortexes” in hidden valleys, shielded from the untamed land, populated by a bunch of immortal hippies who claim they’re maintaining all of mankind’s knowledge. One of them built the head as a manner of controlling the people outside of the valley, but really he had a larger plan the whole time. The immortal hippies keep Zed around to study him because he’s so different from them. See, they’re all stagnating and/or going insane due to living forever and not having sex anymore. But Sean Connery’s character brings sex and violence back to them and then they all grope him to “touch teach” him everything they know so he can kill them all.

There’s more to the climax, but it’s mostly a lot of talking about how the vortexes were built with the best of intentions but humanity can’t handle immortality and while all the talking’s going on a group of the immortal hippies are hunting Zed through the valley to kill him for fucking up their dys/utopia. Eventually he finds a way to make the immortal hippies into mortal hippies, which seems to make them all pretty happy, since they were actually miserable living forever and not having sex.

And then he and one of the women climb back into the head and have a baby and grow old and die within about five minutes of movie time.

The end!

March 30, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Zardoz

March 30,2010

Zardoz

Zardoz is a movie which sticks with you.  It’s full of imagery which gets lodged in your brain and lingers there for years to come.  For better or for worse.  Do you want to have pictures in your mind of Sean Connery in his red loincloth and bandoleer?  Do you want to close your eyes and see a giant floating head that spits our guns and ammunition?  How about rows of vacuum packed naked people?  And that’s just in the first ten minutes!

I love the strange and experimental sci-fi films of the sixties and seventies.  From the days before Star Wars and the birth of the homogenized pasteurized blockbuster action flick.  There was a time – a beautiful and chaotic time – when science fiction was untamed and bizarre.  Think of movies like this one and Silent Running and Logan’s Run and 2001.  Even the Planet of the Apes movies had a dark underside about apocalypse and inevitable doom.

Zardoz tells a story about a strange dystopian future.  In this future there are “brutals” that live in a strange wasteland.  Their population is kept in check by exterminators – a group of men given guns by the god-head Zardoz.  Zardoz is a created god.  Created by a group of immortals who live in an ideal society inside a protected vortex.  But this Eden has become stagnant.  The immortals are splitting into factions.  Some are renegades, cast out from polite society and forced to age into senility, but never allowed to die.  Others have become despondent, unable or unwilling to take any action any longer they have descended into a stupor.

Oh, and for some reason they don’t have bras in Eden.

One of the exterminators is Zed, played by Sean Connery, who kills Arthur, the immortal who created Zardoz and rides the stone head into the vortex.  At first it seems that he is just an ignorant brutal savage invading paradise, but there is more going on.  Zed, it turns out, is more than just a savage.  Arthur, given immortality, has been doing more than just quelling the brutality of the outlands.

As with yesterday’s movie there’s a lot of strangeness and nonsense in this movie.  And a lot of unnecessary gratuitous nudity.  But here it’s in service of an unsettling portrayal of this weird dystopia.

And the whole thing comes to a psychedelic and symbolic climax much in the way that 2001 does.  It reminds me a lot of The Prisoner at times in its strangeness.  Indeed if you think of Zed as Number 6 then it would actually make quite a good episode of the Prisoner.  You feel like you should understand what’s going on at times but you can’t quite.

I really like this movie.  For what it represents more than for what it is.  My one complaint would be that I’m often distracted by all the breasts.  But maybe that’s more a flaw in me than in the movie.

March 30, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , | Leave a comment