Monday, 29 August 2011

The Gun Is Good

Long before I ever saw 'Zardoz', I was able to (unin)form an opinion of it based on stills from the production and other people's views of the film, i.e. it looked incredible, but was one of the worst films ever made. When I finally saw it, I was initially disappointed that it wasn't the hilarious spectacle promised but, instead, was hugely ambitious, not always successful, occasionally disastrous, eminently watchable. I've seen it again and again over the years and am proud to say that my informed opinion is that the critics are, as ever, full of shit. 'Zardoz' is a great film in the true sense of the word - big, bold, ballsy, brilliant and jam packed with mad ideas. Does it always work? No. Does it matter? No! It's what Friese-Greene invented cinema for.

Usually derided as a crazed ego trip on the part of director and writer and producer John Boorman, 'Zardoz' oversteps the mark from the start, giving us not one, but two prologues. The first (see above) is a nod to Shakespeare and a nudge and wink to the viewer which always reminds me of Burt Lancaster's aside in 'The Crimson Pirate': 'Believe only what you see. No, believe only half of what you see!'.  

The second prologue, where the magician Arthur Frayn's normal sized disembodied head gives way to the huge, floating noggin of his fake God, is one of the most astonishing three and a half minutes in cinema. This brilliant sequence, in which the huge stone deity flies through the clouds to land before an expectant crowd of hairy men wearing masks of its fierce face, before proceeding to lecture on the efficacy of violence as an extreme form of contraception should rightfully cause your jaw to drop - and when the head starts dispensing guns and ammunition from its jagged mouth you know for certain you're not in Kansas anymore.

In amongst the hairy men is the ever hirsute Sean Connery. Connery stars as Zed, a genetic experiment who combines ruthless aggression with intellect. In his first act as 'hero', he cocks his new gun, turns to the audience, and shoots it in the face.

That's the first five minutes taken care of. From here on in, things start to get a little strange.

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