Monday, November 21, 2011
Here's the thing about John Frankenheimer, the director of this movie, and I have to get this out of the way before I say anything else. Everyone goes on and on about what a genius he is, and it frustrates me and makes me want to pull all the hair out of my head. Not because I don't think Frankenheimer is a genius, but because he IS. If he weren't, if he were a two-bit hack who should never be allowed near a camera for any reason, then I would be fine with his movies. I would probably even love them, because the moments when his movies transcend their medium and become not just films but ART, those moments would shine if he weren't a very good director. I would be impressed and I'd probably fall all over myself to praise him too. Because he rose above my expectations and created something great.
Here's the thing, though. Because John Frankenheimer IS a great director, because I KNOW he's capable of creating art, and BECAUSE his movies are full of genuinely great moments, I can't just sit here and praise him. I can't give him a pass when over half an hour of this movie is blathering, plodding, slow, boring, mind-numbingly pointless, and insulting to my intelligence. BECAUSE John Frankenheimer knows better, and because he is capable of creating some of the GREAT scenes on display in this movie, I have to take him to task for wasting my time with over half an hour of useless footage that bogs this movie down when it could have been an hour long and been a BRILLIANT film. It would have made a great movie if he'd cut all the pointless stuff that we don't need to see, all the repetitive garbage that's supposed to make us feel disoriented and send us into a dreamlike state, but is more likely to send us into an ACTUAL dream state when we fall asleep out of pure boredom. THIS is what pisses me off about John Frankenheimer. He ALWAYS does this crap. He did it in his OTHER movie I saw, called "Prophecy" (not to be confused with "THE Prophecy" with a creepy christopher Walken) and it makes me want to track him down and smack him in the face for not only wasting my time but for ruining a movie that would have been great if he'd gotten out of his own goddamn way and learned when to shut the fuck up and leave well enough alone.
The premise of this movie is intriguing, and like any good episode of The Twilight Zone, the movie keeps it enough under wraps to disorient us while keeping us intrigued and wanting to know more. Basically, a man who is dissatisfied with his life encounters an organization that offers him a chance to start his life anew. Plastic surgery gives him an all-new appearance, he gets a new job and a new place to live and a new life. It's a dream come true...or is it? The thing is, since it took like, two sentences for me to explain this premise to you and I'm sure you understood it, there's no need for Frankenheimer to try and beat the idea into our heads that this guy is uncomfortable in this new life, that things aren't perfect, and that he's not happy. We get that point. we got it BEFORE we started the movie, so to spend over a half hour of useless, boring, repetitive, redundant, bullshit footage to drive home the point we already understood before we even watched the movie? THAT is the kind of thing that makes me want to track Frankenheimer down and smack him in the face. Seriously, there's a scene involving grapes and wine that drove me into a homicidal rage because it was so repetitive and pointless. I'm also sure that an audience who was used to seeing Rock Hudson laughing it up with Doris Day was freaked out at the thought that someone wouldn't want to live Rock Hudson's life. The idea that even "beautiful, successful people" can have horrible lives probably added to the shock value for this movie back when it was released. I honestly wish this movie was better, because there are so many positive things going for it that it's really infuriating to see Frankenheimer systematically ruin them one by one. Sure, the ending was powerful, but did I really have to wade through so much shit to get there? If I could edit out the pointless bullshit scenes and make this movie into the hour long masterpiece it's begging to be, I would, but as it stands, it's a great idea buried under a pile of shit that is worth a watch for sure, but is infuriating because it could have been so much more if Frankenheimer had known when to shut the fuck up and leave well enough alone.