Tuesday, November 18, 2008

THX-1138 (George Lucas, 1971, revised 2004, USA) In this backwards world, flesh and blood creatures that were once human, who felt deep love invade their very marrow, now willingly assemble their blank-faced Nazi superiors, their own emotions reduced to binary code in the great master computer circit-ulatory system. Like prisoners of the Nazi Death camps, this macro-society has no identity, their humanity wiped away: heads shaved and names replaced by the cruel indifference of numbers, the value of life discounted and discarded…the dead easily replaced by other soma modified drones. These physical beings have become simulacra, clacking away pre-programmed and disposable, their consciousness drugged and monitored by the State. But one woman breaks this chemical bondage and frees her mate, THX-1138: they revolt and begin to think on their own; they fall in love and resist reassignment: they have become the very essence of anarchy…. human beings. And they must be destroyed. Unfortunately, George Lucas redacted the original film and inserted new CGI effects that stand out in stark contrast to the minimalist nature of the film. There are some sublime visual compositions: the men lost in the white cell, tiny and insignificant as they become swallowed by nothingness; a crowded bustling corridor, a violent crushing sea of bodies; the point-of-view as the characters open their medicine cabinets, the ubiquitous overseers always watching; the automatic confessional where a docile voice repeats the same inane suggestions, the plastic Jesus frozen and expressionless; a pickled fetus, reassigned the number of his dead lover; or the Police Robots, reminiscent of the indestructible Gort, stalking the corridors with kind words and killing dissenters with their nightsticks. Lalo Schifrin’s score hits the right notes of subtly and mystery; it doesn’t overpower the narrative but accentuates the tension with perfect timing. Alas, the State must be kept in the red; THX-1138 is allowed to escape because the pursuit has put the project over-budget. As he climbs to the surface he is silhouetted against a setting sun, alive, free, and alone. (B)

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