Sunday, October 16, 2011

SECONDS (John Frankenheimer, 1966, USA)

Arthur Hamilton loses himself in the drudgery of middle age and conceit, possessed by materialism and success, which have become superficial trappings that resonate in the empty chambers of his aging heart. He is adrift and alone, a wife and daughter can offer no salvation from these distant shores of space, and he must find himself once again…or continue to walk the earth virtually lifeless, a victim to the slow fade of love.

But Arthur gets a Second chance. A phone call from a “deceased” friend sets him up for a new identity, to become not only a different person but start life afresh, to breathe in the sweetness of youth tempered with the wisdom of maturity. He is reborn. But he must shed the guilt of his former life and become Tony Wilson; his old life must remain dead. And buried. Arthur’s change is only superficial and he is still imbued with the same rotting essence; he has not come to terms with the root of his inner conflict, he has only treated the symptoms. Baptized in the wine and passion of free love, he cannot shed his old skin and seeks his old life, only to discover that he was not as loved (or missed) as he thought. Arthur’s second life is now measured in Seconds but his corpse will be put to good use…for the next consumer.

John Frankenheimer films with paranoid and frantic close-ups, his camera moving through crowds like an invisible angry spirit, a vengeful ghost haunting its next victim. He skews identity with mirrored twisting images and surreal hallucinations. This beautiful cinematography reveals Arthur’s confusion and turmoil and his inability to socialize. His inner voice is now mute. The score heightens the tension towards his narcissistic self-destruction and is hammered with irony: as he finally begins the long journey to enlightenment he realizes there are no third chances. In vino veritas: no matter where you go, there you are.

Final Grade: (B+)

3 comments:

The Lady Eve said...

Your take on "Seconds" goes straight to the heart of the matter, short and sweet. Though it's probably the least known of the three, I've always thought it fit in well with Frankenheimer's other paranoiac gems, "The Manchurian Candidate" and "Seven Days in May." Much to recommend it, including James Wong Howe cinematography. Plus the chance to see Rock Hudson as a character of some complexity for a change.

Alex DeLarge said...

Thanks! This triptych is phenomenal and I consider THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE one of the great American films: it often makes my Top Ten list:)

DorianTB said...

Alex, I first saw SECONDS on TV when I was a kid (about 12, if I recall correctly), and while some parts of it went over my head, others unnerved the hell out of me; I couldn't sleep that night! Over the years, I've decided that SECONDS is scarier than any blood-soaked gore-fest horror film, because it really speaks to my gut. Talk about the ultimate makeover -- SECONDS is a classic thriller and cautionary tale about the dangers of thinking superficial changes will be enough to make you happy and at peace with yourself. As Rock Hudson shows in his searing performance, you ignore your true self at your peril. The BUCKAROO BANZAI quote you chose was spot-on: "No matter where you go, there you are." Great Carlino script and performances, gorgeously sinister black-and-white cinematography by the wonderful James Wong Howe, and of course, John Frankenheimer's direction are virtually flawless. I don't think anyone would ever mistake SECONDS for a feel-good movie, but I doubt that anyone who's seen it could ever forget it. Great post!