Saturday, January 16, 2010

Seconds (1966)

Dir: John Frankheimer
Paramount DVD OOP

I would consider this an essential in existential cinema. My definition of that would be any film that has an important component to someone's identity taken form them (IE; face, name, memory...) and then finding what decisions those characters will make knowing that a regular set of consequences no longer pertain to them. In the case of Seconds, the main character has his face changed through surgery and is given a new name and identity so he can shirk all former responsibilities and start fresh in what he considers a dream life, in this case as an artist. Here is the ultimate in mid-life crisis. The premise here is that a company exists (through word of mouth only, you must be sponsored) that will do everything you would need to start a new life. This comes with a price of course, not only monetary as our protagonist finds out. When an old, and supposedly dead, friend of Arthur Hamilton's (John Randolph) contacts him, he decides to take the offer and becomes Tony Wilson (Rock Hudson). He has difficulties settling into a new life and seems riddled with guilt and loneliness for a family he paid little attention to. He decides he can't go on being Wilson so asks the company for another identity. And then there's an ending and I won't spoil it for you. Frankenheimer tells the story with a surreal, unnerving use of camera. There are strange camera movements and optical effects throughout that make it a stylish as well as heady experience beyond most other films ever made. The only major flaw is an unfortunately dated sequence where Wilson goes to some kind of love-in or renaissance fair that feels completely out of place with the rest of the movie.
The DVD is now out of print, expect to pay collector's prices at this point. I received the disc from Netflix with not much wait. It is worth owning though as there is Frankenheimer commentary, hopefully it will get a blu-ray release.


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