A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Friday, August 3, 2018

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Philip Kaufman, 1978)

Brooke Adams and Donald Sutherland in Invasion of the Body Snatchers
Matthew Bennell: Donald Sutherland
Elizabeth Driscoll: Brooke Adams
Jack Bellicec: Jeff Goldblum
Nancy Bellicec: Veronica Cartwright
Dr. David Kibner: Leonard Nimoy
Dr. Geoffrey Howell: Art Hindle
Katherine Hendley: Lelia Goldoni
Running Man: Kevin McCarthy
Taxi Driver: Don Siegel

Director: Philip Kaufman
Screenplay: W.D. Richter
Based on a novel by Jack Finney
Cinematography: Michael Chapman
Production design: Charles Rosen
Film editing: Douglas Stewart
Music: Danny Zeitlin

Speaking of remakes, as I did recently, there are few more successful than Philip Kaufman's version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, first filmed by Don Siegel in 1956. Siegel's film was informed by the red scares of the 1950s, which had faded into a more free-floating paranoia 18 years later when Kaufman returned to the material. Siegel was perfectly happy to go along with the idea of remaking the story, and contributed an amusing cameo as a cabbie in Kaufman's film. Kaufman also wittily used the star of Siegel's version, Kevin McCarthy, in a bit as the "running man" who races through San Francisco streets shouting "They're coming! They're coming!" It's the wit that pervades Kaufman's version that makes it such a worthy successor to Siegel's more straightforward sci-fi horror film. There's a blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment in which we see Robert Duvall as a priest on a playground swing and ask ourselves "Was that ...?" There's the casting of Leonard Nimoy as a psychiatrist possessing the same sangfroid as Mr. Spock, a more benevolent alien being. And there are Jeff Goldblum and Veronica Cartwright (a year before her appearance in Ridley Scott's Alien) as the somewhat loopy Bellicecs. Kaufman has a little trouble establishing the tone of his version, so that it plays better on a second viewing than on a first one, but it's one of the few films in the genre that I'm more than happy to give a repeat viewing.

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