Saturday, February 26, 2011

Zardoz: Flour Power and the Fall of the British Commune in 2239 A.D.

GGGgguhhh!! It's possible in the 21st Century to DOWNLOAD and WATCH on TINY SCREENS the most godawfully self-indulgent hippie flick of all time, Sean Connery and Charlotte Rampling chewing up the scenery in 1974's low budget sci-fi bumbledoodle, Zardoz — if you can believe it, a cult classic so bad — so well, yet so inadvisably made — it forms its own subgenre of Beautiful People down on the Commune.

Can you imagine the feelings of all these seriously anorexic but gorgeous boys and pretty actresses ("the rich, the powerful, and the clever") the day John Boorman told them, "Today, Blumenkinder, we will stand around a Round Table laden with the flour power (!) of simple green bread which we shall nibble held horizontally in blessing, whilst holding out our arms, humming and moaning suggestively to ourselves in low tones, and wiggling our fingers at Friend (John Alderton), who shall reject our togethernesses."  In the immortal but forgotten words of Arthur Frayne, "Is God in show business, too?"

Aside from the dreadfully claustrophic mental horizons of such lowbudget British scifi as Dr. Who, no comparables exist that I know of.  Silent Running,  if you gut the environmental message, is just pretentious enough, while Vanilla Sky romps when it should advance by painful prostrations toward its solipsistic visions. Easy Rider was purposefully immoral and way too humorless, but Zardoz betrays both self-awareness and a chortling indifference to Rampling's chalkboard genitalia and divers other juvenile japeries; perhaps best exemplified when Friend speaks backwards for the amusement of choresharing co-workers in a flour-dusted communal kitchen.  Dated 1974, well before and after Janet Jackson, Zardoz contains wardrobe malfeasance up the wazoo and thus is rated R for everyone.

Bottom line? Englishman John Boorman (or at least Zardoz) doesn't particularly like the American Haight-Ashbury, whom he considers have ignored Malthus, Darwin and Marx in favor of hothouse elitist lives in a bubble of infrangible self-delusion. On the other hand, every scifi filmmaker's most penetrating insight is the moment of conception — sperm meets ovum, Zed meets Consuela — so Zardoz emphatically joins the pantheon of twentieth century consummation imagery, from Close Encounters of the Third Kind to The Creator (Cmdr. Decker) meets Veeger (Lt. Ilia) in Star Trek: The Motion Picture to Slim Pickens riding The Bomb at the end of Dr. Strangelove to Waterworld to use your imagination.

Holy wordplay, Batman, it really is a pun on flower power!



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