August 14, 2013

Live-Tweeting ZARDOZ Is 105 Minutes Of Pure Uncut Crazy

"You stink of despair."
When I tell people about my year-long cinematic mission, most will quickly offer up suggestions for movies that I should watch.  (I have a running list that I almost certainly will not finish before my time is up.)  Often times the person will rattle off a list of their favorite films, but occasionally someone will suggest something weird, something they saw once late at night and haunts their dreams, something that's completely and utterly off-the-rails-crazy.  These are my favorite people.

One of the very first films that was offered up for my viewing menu came courtesy of my friend Ryan MacLaughlin, who had just finished watching what he called, "easily the worst movie I've ever seen."  I love a good terrible movie, as often times it's the spectacular failures that provide some of the most incredible and/or memorable viewing experiences.  So when I first started composing my list of suggestions, right at the top was the enigmatically titled Zardoz.

Holy hell.

It's a 1970's psychedelic trip set in a post-apocalyptic future in which humanity has been split into two factions: the bloodthirsty Brutals who worship a giant floating stone head named Zardoz, and a collection of immortal intellectuals with amorphous telekinetic powers called the Eternals.  Our hero is Zed, played by a ponytailed, porn-stache-clad Sean Connery wearing nothing but the above pictured red codpiece and matching bandoliers, who sneaks into the stone head (sometime after it awkwardly vomits out a pile of rifles and ammo) and kills the guy inside, a man named Arthur Frayn who wears a dishtowel as a hat and has facial hair that was literally drawn on with a Sharpie. Zed sneaks into the Eternals' "vortex" (actually just a village with some kind of transparent barrier) where he's soon discovered and puzzled over by the supposedly civilized inhabitants.  It seems that Zed is smarter than most of his fellow Brutals and moreover he refuses to tell the Eternals exactly how or why he snuck into the stone head in the first place.  The audience is left similarly in the dark on this point, but it doesn't really foster a sense of mystery so much as outright confusion.

What happens from that point on is...well it's all pretty nonsensical.  There's a lot of bizarre activity, including mirrored psychic chambers, mental assault aided by jazz hands, penis diagrams, a crystal tabernacle and a circus tent full of senile old people.  When they do finally get around to explaining Zed's backstory, there's a big "reveal" that plays like the kind of thing you'd find in a required reading book for fifth graders.  But that's nothing compared the absolutely insane ending, which I'm, quite frankly, still trying to wrap my head around.  Mostly though I just couldn't figure out how Connery managed to go from James Bond to Zardoz.  It's baffling.  The only possible explanations are either A) Connery REALLY liked Deliverance and wanted to work with John Boorman so badly that he said yes to the movie without actually reading the script, or B) John Boorman was secretly holding Connery's entire family hostage until after they finished production.  Both seem equally likely.

This is the kind of movie that probably plays really well as a midnight screening in a packed theater, where you can coast on the raucous reactions of the crowd around you.  Or if you're drugged out of your mind.  But for just me and Bart watching the movie in his basement...well, at some point Zardoz actually started to wear on us.  About every 15 minutes I'd find myself involuntarily screaming, "What the fuck is going on with this movie???" while Bart sat rocking back and forth at the opposite end of the couch.  This was a battle.  Zardoz is not a film for the casual movie-goer.  Only those was an iron will and a fondness for chest hair need apply.

Live-tweet madness follows below:

Congratulations Zardoz.  You've claimed the top spot on my Bottom Ten list.  Number one, with a bullet.

You'll be tough to beat.

Title: Zardoz
Director: John Boorman
Starring: Sean Connery, Charlotte Rampling, Sara Kestelman, John Alderton, Niall Buggy
Year Of Release: 1974
Viewing Method: Netflix DVD

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