"And now for something completely different"... Zardoz (1974)
I didn't mean to begin with a Monty Python quote but they were Brit contemporaries of Writer/Director John Boorman. And Zardoz (1974), the follow up to his most enduring classic (Deliverance, 1972) might be better if it were aiming for comedy instead of merely conjuring laughs. Nevertheless it doesn't get any more "different" than John Boorman's bizarre drug trip about false gods, immortal hippie communes, sentient crystals, marauding assassins, chest hair, and Charlotte Rampling's unique power to both cause erections and lecture about them simultaneously.
I chose it for Best Shot only to finally make sense of its frequent meme-ready presence online -- the jokes on me as it will never make any sense -- but I don't regret it. It's too weird to go unseen. It's the only movie in existence that begins with a floating disembodied head spewing out firearms, the only movie where you'll ever see Sean Connery licking another man while wearing a red diaper, and the only film to demonstrate the potent psychic peer pressure of jazz hands.
"Meditate on this at second level" with us after the [NSFW] jump...
This jazz hands meditation command is my runner up for best shot. I love the suffocating low diagonal ceiling of foilage (faux because there's nothing "natural" in the movie), the outstretched undead arms (with wiggling jazz hands), and for being an image which hints at the film's apocalyptically ugly costuming (by the director's wife). To a one the costumes are unflattering, eyesore colorful, immodestly flimsy, and usually attempt to embarrass the actor with ill advised crotch details, peekaboo nipples, or nonsensical unflattering proportions.
(My choice for the film's best image is at the end of this index from our Best Shot participants.)
Please do click on these images to read the corresponding articles because Zardoz is much more fun to read about than actually watch!
Despite its all but complete absence of a meaningfully comprehensible plot, Zardoz is part of the history of narrative film.
- Antagony & Ecstasy
(I don't know how Tim does it each and every week of this series but he always says coherent fascinating surprising things about any movie we assign.)
The best thing to come out of the movie was the discovery that it was directed by the same guy who did Deliverance/Hope and Glory…and The Exorcist II. I’ve now decided that I love John Boorman.
-Scophophiliac at the Cinema
It's a fine pick so close to April Fool's Day because the joke is on the viewer
-Sorta That Guy
A crime against art presented as something meaningful...
(I apologize profusively to Cláudio who claims he watched the film THREE times to write this piece; that's commitment... and masochism!)
All I know for sure is that it’s a wonder that this movie exists at all. But then, that’s the 70’s for you.
(Allison's also been a faithful Best Shot-er. Thanks, Allison!)
Jokes aside about the indecipherably strange plot, the visuals are pretty fun
-Film Mix Tape
(Chris wisely sees that Charlotte Rampling always rises above her material, no matter what qualitative rung it occupies)
I suspected we might have a small turnout this week since Zardoz is no one's favorite movie. (Well, maybe this guys) and it's not streaming for free anywhere but if you ever get a chance to see it you must.
Otherwise you'll never know the perfection of Charlotte Rampling lecturing about the evils and mysteries of the penis. It's not the best shot even though it's one of the most perfectly sensible matches of actress and scene to have ever been projected onto screens.
My best shot:
This sequence is long and strange and involves Sean Connery's "monster" downloading the entirety of human cultural and intellectual knowledge via 'touch teach' from Avalow. She's played by Sally Anne Newton, who made three movies in 1974 and never worked in the movies again (?!?) adding to the movie's already endless list of curiosities. Avalow is the first Eternal he sees inside "The Vortex" (where most of the movie takes place) and she seems to be some sort of psychic leader though everyone votes on everything in their version of democracy. The knowledge the Brutal receives is visually represented with projections onto his body -- famous paintings, text, photographs, etcetera. It's oddly beautiful as shot by the great Geoffrey Unsworth (Cabaret, 2001, Superman).
This image is perfect for so many reasons but let's site these three:
- The projections are simple as visual "effects" go but projections on the human body will never not result in eye catching imagery
- "The Monster" protagonist is actually revealed as forever passive further confusing the already confused messages -- his early violence is projected onto him by the commune's faux religion to keep the Brutals in line and now he becomes enlightenment and non-violent but also through the commune's teaching.
- And finally the image is just about the only sensual thing in a decidedly unsexy movie. Despite all the talk of penises, despite the commune's preoccupation with sex, despite Sean Connery's sweat causing a kissing orgy (I'm not making any of this up), it's a decidedly unsexy movie. The "sex" scenes aren't even that; there are but two of them and both are rape sequences. Sean Connery's infamously terrible costume gets its one great effective moment as the tumescent knot in his red loincloth diaper doubles as a visual stand-in for that erection that we've heard so much about.