Monday, September 8, 2008

Zardoz (John Boorman, 1974)

Oh, Zardoz, why do you have to be so awesome? Why couldn't you have been some generic glob of insipid cornmeal with no real nutritional value? Instead, you had to be a thoughtful romp, teeming with life-giving nectar. I'm telling ya, if I looked through my window right this minute and gazed upon a gigantic stone head floating above the bacteria-laden nail salon across the street, I guarantee I'd be out there in a nothing but red diaper bowing before your bouldery presence quicker than a nonspecific superhero whose main superpower is the ability to move really fast 'n' stuff. What can I say? That's the effect this movie had on me. Now, I realize it doesn't take much to get me to frolic inappropriately in public, but I loved the ill-conceived choices that are made in this film. Everything from the aforementioned diapers to the chromatic flakiness were transmitted with courageous aplomb. It was almost if writer-director John Boorman was extracting pure, uncut crazy thoughts directly from his cerebral cortex in a random, go for broke fashion. Because let's get real, it takes a whole lotta gumption to conceive a film like this. Zardoz tells the story of Zed, a hirsute exterminator, who, along with his fellow exterminators, does the bidding of a floating head named–you guessed it–Zardoz. The giant godhead spits guns and rifles from its mouth and tells the scantily clad warriors, in a low, booming voice, to kill all those who dare to breed. You see, those who use their penises (and vaginas, I presume) for non-recreational purposes are deemed 'Brutals' and must eradicated on site.

One day, while taking a break from killing people, Zed ventures off on his own and ends up in The Vortex, a pastoral wonderland, where a community of highly evolved humans have somehow managed to conquer death. Zed fascinates the eternal throng at first, but some grow to suspect the uncivilized outsider; as his thirst for knowledge begins to threaten their makeshift utopia.

A ponytail-sporting Sean Connery is at the top of his game as Zed. In fact, I think this is the only movie of his that I've enjoyed on a number of different levels. The thigh-high boots and red diaper with matching bandoleer may look ridiculous, but Connery makes the skimpy outfit his own personal chew toy after only five minutes.

Whether he's pulling a bread wagon, fleeing a crazed Charlotte Rampling in a wedding dress, or molesting the right breast of a mousy woman pullulating with apathy, Sean imbues the shaggy barbarian with a refined, yet musky stench. There's moment late in the film when Zed instructs a ragtag group of followers to "Stay behind my aura!" that made me say to myself: This is my kind of movie. What can I say? Grown men who refer to their auras in a surefooted manner are pretty hot in my book. Having a thick patch of chest hair (the kind that can frighten small woodland creatures) doesn't hurt, either.

On a more feminine tip, Sara Kestelman's aggravated attractiveness and alluring, elf-like mystical qualities were downright captivating as May, a Vortex dweller who takes an interest in Zed's memories. Her freckled visage and trance-like posture was a nice counterbalance to Connery's oafishness. The scene where May and Zed congregate underneath a diaphanous head covering was quite a slightly androgynous, nonlethal way.

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