R. When a movie is about the repression of sexuality, it is inherently a film about sexuality. Considering that the content of the movie is what it is, it is kind of tame. But it does have nudity and it is occasionally pretty graphic. Regardless, unlike Logan's Run, it is R.
DIRECTOR: George Lucas
I swear, I'm not a close follower of George Lucas! I don't have a weird obsession with him. Just because I've seen every one of his narrative movies now. I'm not going to watch his documentary stuff. I thought I'd still have to watch Howard the Duck to fulfill my Marvel list, but he didn't direct it. Yay, I guess. I saw this was on TCM and I decided to finally watch it. This has to be my last actual critique of George Lucas, right? (I foresee a time when I'm going to start reviewing the Indiana Jones franchise and I'm going to have to open this Pandora's Box all over again. (I also apparently don't know how Pandora's Box works...)
The man can't help himself! I can't even review this accurately. I've never seen the theatrical cut or even the thing that was considered a theatrical cut. I watched this movie, thinking that the special effects were insane, especially for a first picture. I then got the sneaking suspicion that the special effects were made recently and, sure enough, the credits afterwards had a "2004" edit. I Wikipedia'd this garbage and found out that he added crap. I have no understanding of what the actual film looked like. That's not fair. I want to know what to judge and what to admire. George Lucas was not the same man in 1971 as he was in 2004. He had a very different attitude about what was important and it is impossible to separate the two. It's a very bad trick. This transitions into what was originally going to be my point about this movie. I can see why someone like Francis Ford Coppola thought that Star Wars ruined Lucas. In an Entertainment Weekly article, Coppola called Lucas's attachment to Star Wars a pity and I totally get it. THX 1138 is a gutsy movie. It's an angry film, if not a little immature. But the movie is as challenging as it comes. It is avant garde and hard to watch for a reason. I don't think I've ever seen a movie that was so hungry and so artistically motivated as THX 1138. It is so funny that this was the same guy who made Star Wars because there are these small elements that would carry over into the Star Wars films (like focusing on the mundane chatter despite the scope of the setting), but it seems like a totally different guy made these movies. Imagine being friends with Lucas and he was presenting this social criticism that was borderline unwatchable, despite showing so much talent. Then the guy would just spend the rest of his life making Star Wars? I hate to say it, but Coppola is kind of right. Star Wars might have been the worst thing that happened to Lucas. I'm not saying that I want a million THX 1138s out there. But I want to see a filmmaker who doesn't stick to convention as closely as he would later on. I love the tone, if not the message of THX 1138.
I was commenting on the role of science fiction as commentary on society. While Lucas is painting with broad strokes here, I do appreciate that he has real messages in his movie. (Often, I wildly disagree with the politics that Lucas is commenting on, but I do like the execution of those messages.) In the film, he takes great pains to focus on the role of religion, capitalism, technology, and race. There are moments where it feels a bit preachy, but I think that Lucas often falls on the safe side of preachiness. But the style of the film is what makes the message so interesting. Rather than making the center of the plot the primary theme, the message is conveyed in small moments. The protagonist prays to a blown up image of Christ, who responds only through prerecorded tape. At one point, Donald Pleasance (worth seeing for him) actually find the recording studio where the footage for Christ is shot, but is unable to distinguish the reality of what was happening from his devotion exposed. It's really an interesting idea. The same thing happens with the primary narrative. It's amazing how this was a double feature with Logan's Run on TCM because the story is very similar with different levels of intensity. While THX is being chased throughout this world, the background is giving a budget for how much this is costing. SPOILER, I GUESS: The only reason that THX gets away is because the chase went overbudget. It's kind of like the end of Blazing Saddles (DOUBLE SPOILER!). But I like how the concept isn't hammered into the audience. It is the background. But this brings up yet another interesting thing about how this was filmed. The style of the film as a whole screams "preachiness." George Lucas is an amazing worldbuilder, but I can't even pretend to think that the setting of this world would be conducing to a traditional narrative. I knew that everything that I was going to watch was going to somehow trying to teach me something about Lucas's politics. Somehow, the message of this paragraph is that Lucas is simultaneously subtle about his politics and completely in your face about his politics at the same time. It's like that commercial from the '80s. Was it Pepsi? Was it Federal Express? Regardless, we were obsessed with Orwellian dystopias.
I really like the cast in this movie. For those not in the know, the film version of TXH 1138 is a longer adaptation from his award winning student film. It feels very much like a student film because it is an angry and spitting movie. But I am more confused on how they got Robert Duvall and Donald Pleasance to be in this movie. Both of them chew the scenery so hard, but I don't even know how they approached acting in this movie. Nothing is linear or makes a ton of sense. Every single line is drenched in technobabble, yet the leads really manage to pull off every line, as far as I could tell. There were so many moments where I didn't get what was going on and I don't think I was meant to get what was going on, but they actors never really lost their sense of truth in the moment of those scenes. I have to especially credit Duvall. Admittedly, he had a lot of moments where he was meant to simply intensely stare forward, but he never really wrote off these scenes. He has this drive in the movie that makes me feel like I am on his team, but I'm not really sure why. Duvall has always been an actor like that. I love me some Donald Pleasance (because he is, indeed, Donald Pleasant), but his career choice is more dubious than Duvall's. Duvall's hit / miss ratio is pretty good. Pleasance has signed on in the past to do some real bombs, so I can see him taking a risk like THX 1138. But how did Lucas get Duvall? He's crushing this movie, but why? I don't even know how he did it.
I had really low expectations of this one. The film nerds I hung out with in the Thomas Video days even slagged this one. But the movie has a few chops behind it. I won't ever love it and I'm really peeved that I can't watch the original of the movie. (I wouldn't shy of being handed an original cut of the movie and given a request to review it. I'm a real pushover.) But I want to see a world where George Lucas didn't become Mr. Star Wars. He might have been forgotten and Star Wars would never exist, but he is such a different dude now. Ah well, I'm glad I watched it.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.