667 Seconds

Discuss DVDs and Blu-rays released by Criterion and the films on them. If it's got a spine number, it's in here. Threads may contain spoilers.
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EddieLarkin
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Re: 667 Seconds

#51 Post by EddieLarkin » Fri Jul 12, 2013 11:06 am

Huh, it really is 1.75:1. I assumed the image would actually be 16x9, in the same way Shock Corridor and The Naked Kiss are (but are listed as 1.75:1 on the cases). I don't think I've ever comes across a Blu-ray that's 1.75:1 before, it seems a bit pointless when it's such a small difference to 1.78:1. Then again I would prefer to see more 1.75:1 transfers when that IS the actual intended ratio, but all signs point to 1.85:1 for Seconds. Maybe Criterion know something we don't.

I'm intrigued now, is anyone aware of any other genuine 1.75:1 transfers on Blu-ray?

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manicsounds
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Re: 667 Seconds

#52 Post by manicsounds » Fri Jul 19, 2013 4:28 am


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manicsounds
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Re: 667 Seconds

#53 Post by manicsounds » Fri Jul 19, 2013 4:33 am

EddieLarkin wrote:I'm intrigued now, is anyone aware of any other genuine 1.75:1 transfers on Blu-ray?
"Manchurian Candidate", what a coincidence! Another Frankenheimer movie!

Also, there are a lot of Disney late 60's early 70's releases that are in 1.75:1

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FakeBonanza
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Re: 667 Seconds

#54 Post by FakeBonanza » Fri Jul 19, 2013 7:47 am

Seconds has shaped up to be a definite blind buy for me. James Wong Howe's contribution piqued my interest, but Criterion's handling of the film and material sold me. This sounds like a fantastic edition.

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Le Samouraï
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Re: 667 Seconds

#55 Post by Le Samouraï » Mon Jul 22, 2013 7:54 am

manicsounds wrote:
EddieLarkin wrote:I'm intrigued now, is anyone aware of any other genuine 1.75:1 transfers on Blu-ray?
"Manchurian Candidate", what a coincidence! Another Frankenheimer movie!

Also, there are a lot of Disney late 60's early 70's releases that are in 1.75:1
Yeah, but Paramount was locked on 1.85:1 by that time, and all evidence points to SECONDS being released in 1.85:1 originally. The only precedence for it being in 1.75:1 was the old laserdisc.

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Galen Young
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Re: 667 Seconds

#56 Post by Galen Young » Sat Jul 27, 2013 7:48 am

Have been reading book a titled Five American Cinematographers which includes an interview with James Wong Howe. He makes some interesting comments about working on the film:
James Wong Howe wrote:On SECONDS (1966)

I would say John [Frankenheimer] needs a little help to hold him down a little; he goes overboard.

How so?

Hand-held cameras when you don't need it. There has to be a reason; I always ask, "Why?" He doesn't. He just says, "Give me a hand-held shot here, give me a zoom shot there." Now, the fish-eye he didn't ask for (at the end of the picture). I said, "Let's put the fish-eye on and see if it works." I'll never say, "Let's use it," but I will say "Let’s try it." He liked it and it worked. For the railroad station sequence, we put a camera with a wide-angle lens on a wheeled suitcase carrier.

I don't think the zoom is used right; they use it for no reason. I think the lens has a purpose, and if you use it right it can be effective. I blame it on the directors; most directors get so fascinated with the camera, like a new toy. They forget all about the people. They should forget the camera and work with the people; they'll have a better picture. Most of them don't understand story. You should be able to forget your technique.

The way the orgy sequence is cut doesn't make much sense.

As we shot it, it was a wonderful sequence. Today, they could use it; at the time, they couldn't. They found that grape-bacchanal group up there; they're for real. They get the grapes, undress, stomp them for next year's wine. Frankenheimer and the producer went up and tried to talk them into letting us photograph them. So, they went up, we got them together, gave them $5,000 for their club and bought them eight tons of grapes for next year's wine. So we went up there, shot for one day and worked till about 12 o'clock, because they all got so drunk. They threw Frankenheimer in and I said, "Look John, we better get out of here." We didn't get everything we needed, so we had to send the second unit back to get some other scenes where they're cooking at the picnic.

There was one scene that was cut: There was a Queen of the Bacchanal, a nice girl with a beautiful figure; she was stripped. At the end, they drink the wine around a statue of Bacchus and she takes a wine glass and smashes it against the penis of the statue.

And then there were the operations. We couldn't show too much of that, but we photographed a real nose operation. Oh boy! I had four cameras photographing that operation and some of the cameramen got sick. I didn't get sick, but I didn't like it.

I enjoyed working with John very much; I think we made a good film.

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Drucker
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Re: 667 Seconds

#57 Post by Drucker » Fri Aug 16, 2013 10:57 am

Watched Seconds last night, which I bought mostly on the strength of the reviews it got for PQ as well as the fact that it seemed like something my wife would be into (mostly a horror/sci-fi fan).

The first twenty minutes were fantastic. A very surreal movie that gets moving right out of the gate. Even having read a general synopsis of the film, I found myself effectively drawn into the feel of the picture: a humdrum existence, a guy bored at home, and some stranger offering him a way out. The viewer doesn't exactly know what's going on at first, but they figure it out soon enough, all the while feeling just as confused as the protagonist. As the film went on, it reminded me a lot of Kiss Me Deadly, in the way that we are sort of dropped right into the picture, and slowly seem to learn more about the backstory as the film goes on (and then sure enough, Wesley Addy appears!).
What almost throws the movie off, I feel, are the expository scenes, where procedures are explained (especially the first scene before the transformation where the protagonist is explained the situation). However, the utter ridiculousness of it and the characters help make the movie work for me. So matter of factly they explain that for a mere $30,000 we dispose of your body, you'll have a recovery period, etc. etc poof you have a new existence! It works well, again, when Hudson comes to, and it's explained that he will be an artist. Rather than slow the film down, the actors playing the scientists/surgeons/etc. are so good and just the right amount of ridiculous to make the slow-down in pacing (and relatively straight-forward filming) not hamper the film.

The blu ray is absolutely gorgeous, and I can't wait to dive into some of the extra stuff this weekend.

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Corey
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Re: 667 Seconds

#58 Post by Corey » Sun Aug 25, 2013 8:50 pm

Experienced Seconds for the first time. It's profoundly moving and unsettling... From my first view it has ticked to the top as one of my all time favorites. A dynamic masterpiece!

It seems psychologically related to Persona... Both birthed from nervous-experimental-energy though I know very little of Frankenheimer (Baldwins bit is funny and illuminating). Is there info relating the two films?

Looking forward to the directors commentary. Also to The Manchurian Candidate.

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I loved the bacchanalian orgy!

rohming
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Re: 667 Seconds

#59 Post by rohming » Tue Sep 03, 2013 8:20 pm

I really enjoyed this, but how crazy is it that this and The Face of Another both came out in '66? It's like the original Deep Impact/Armageddon--Volcano/Dante's Peak effect or something, just different countries.

I'd be hard pressed to say which I liked better of the two, this or Teshigahara's film. I have Face of Another in my Top 100 Movies, now I wish I could make that a combo spot with Seconds.

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Finch
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Re: 667 Seconds

#60 Post by Finch » Wed Oct 02, 2013 6:49 am

A fantastic review of the film and disc by Walter Chaw who is always best when he writes about films he loves. Briliant stuff.

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Re: 667 Seconds

#61 Post by phantomforce » Wed Oct 02, 2013 1:03 pm

FInally got a chance to see this the other night... What a trip! It really left me tense and on edge all the way through. Visually one of my favorite films now. From Saul Bass's intro shots (which i'm sure inspired many credit designers like se7en, etc) to Howe's use of close ups, fish eyes, hand held, etc in his Cinematography, it all really pulls you into the paranoid nightmare. The film never lets up, from beginning to end.

I loved Face of Another as well, but this one did a better job of dragging me into the descent of this man's world.

I also found it fascinating that this had been John Randolph's first film appearance since he had been blacklisted, especially given the character he portrays who feels like he needs a second shot at the world.

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matrixschmatrix
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Re: 667 Seconds

#62 Post by matrixschmatrix » Sun Nov 10, 2013 10:27 pm

Jesus, what a kick in the gut this movie is. It starts off in a style that's really self consciously arty- all canted angles and blurred close ups- in a way that I think is designed to get you distanced from what you're seeing, and make it feel somewhat horrible. It settles down into a sort of extra pretty, extra well acted Twilight Zone storytelling mode, and to some degree, that's where it finishes, and it has the brutality of some of the best of the Twilight Zone. It's utterly uncompromising, and the moral is cruel in part because it has touches of humanism- it gives us any number of moments where people doing shocking things are doing them for reasons other than pure evil, even reasons that were once aspirational. I suppose I should have expected something nasty from Manchurian Candidate era Frankenheimer, but this is in some ways harsher still.

It's fairly thematically dense, and I'd need some time to process to talk about it, but it's intensely powerful, and after the first ten or twenty minutes, intensely watchable, for all the pessimism of it. There's a lot of resonance with other things, the surgical horror of Eyes Without a Face, the existential bureaucracy of The Trial, the bone chilling combination of science fiction and inhumanity of a Harlan Ellison story, but for all that it's incredibly distinctive. And Frankenheimer gives the underrated Rock Hudson yet another chance to prove that there's a powerful actor hiding amongst the movie star charisma.

(Incidentally, this is a movie where James Wong Howe seems like as much the auteur as anyone else- it could be laughable or pretentious in other hands, but Howe manages all the gradients from avant garde alienation to pure identification with incredible skill, and makes something of alluring enough textures to keep one attached even during the least alluring circumstances.)
Last edited by matrixschmatrix on Mon Nov 11, 2013 5:11 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Dylan
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Re: 667 Seconds

#63 Post by Dylan » Mon Nov 11, 2013 3:24 am

Harlan Ellison
Good call there. Numerous times in interviews (and more recently, on his website's message board that he posts at daily) Ellison has said that he believes this is the greatest science fiction movie ever made. If you know his work - which is often at equal turns gorgeous, terrifying, & plausible - it's not hard to understand why.

I still remember watching the VHS of Seconds when I was 15 and it left me shaking with tears streaming down my face & I wasn't able to sleep that night. I was in complete and total awe of its beauty and majesty and yet it genuinely frightened me more than any art ever did before or has since. It's been one of my top five favorite films of all-time ever since, and while the specific emotional effect it had on me at 15 hasn't returned (thank God), every time I'm in front of this film (only three times since that first viewing 12 years ago) I'm always more and more convinced that it's one of the great, towering masterpieces of cinema.

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matrixschmatrix
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Re: 667 Seconds

#64 Post by matrixschmatrix » Mon Nov 11, 2013 4:36 am

Le Samouraï wrote:
manicsounds wrote:
EddieLarkin wrote:I'm intrigued now, is anyone aware of any other genuine 1.75:1 transfers on Blu-ray?
"Manchurian Candidate", what a coincidence! Another Frankenheimer movie!

Also, there are a lot of Disney late 60's early 70's releases that are in 1.75:1
Yeah, but Paramount was locked on 1.85:1 by that time, and all evidence points to SECONDS being released in 1.85:1 originally. The only precedence for it being in 1.75:1 was the old laserdisc.
Frankenheimer refers to it as being a 1:66 movie in the commentary, for what that's worth.

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mfunk9786
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Re: 667 Seconds

#65 Post by mfunk9786 » Wed Nov 13, 2013 1:11 pm

I love this movie an obscene amount after seeing it yesterday, but I can't entirely endorse it because of the sequences in California. I don't know that addressing the main character's (his two names have led me to forget both) inherent emptiness is handled very deftly until he returns to his old home (what a scene), something is missing there - we don't ever really get the impression that he's miserable until he's miserable. But my goodness, everything that leads up to that and everything after - it's such a nauseating trip, such a successfully low key attempt at an ultra high concept. I could watch the first and last half hour of this film over and over and over again, and the middle isn't so egregious as to take away from the whole experience for me. It is such a pleasant surprise that I likely wouldn't have caught up with if not for this excellent Criterion release.

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Roger Ryan
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Re: 667 Seconds

#66 Post by Roger Ryan » Wed Nov 13, 2013 1:25 pm

What initially threw me regarding the California scenes were the seemingly forced enlightenment and frivolity. I felt the film was trying too hard...until I realized that "Tony Wilson" was unsettled by the same thing I, the viewer, was. Everyone is play-acting and not doing a particularly good job at it. This middle section is still weaker than rest of the film, but I suspect I will find some telling nuances on subsequent viewings.

This film, along with THE GRADUATE and THE SWIMMER, really knows how to skewer 60s cocktail culture. A wonderful blind buy for me.

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movielocke
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Re: 667 Seconds

#67 Post by movielocke » Wed Dec 04, 2013 4:10 pm

I've been aware of this film for years and have had it high on my 'to watch' list for far too long. It seems like a slam dunk of my tastes.

So I was tremendously disappointed that despite adoring so much of the aesthetics of the film, and the overall Harlan Ellison esque story, and the uncompromising ending that I found my reaction to be relatively flat. I don't dislike the film, but I feel no thrill from it. Aesthetically, it is flawless, but I was continually put off by the didactic script that makes the film veer into the kitschy at times. The performances were fine, I thought, but those were often marred by the on-the-nose dialogue. I love the structure and pace of the film, the twilight zone sensibility, the lulling dread of the California section, the ominous inevitability in the return to the hospital. But it never fully clicked for me. Perhaps it will on a second viewing, but I'm disappointed I didn't have the ecstatic experience so many others have enjoyed.

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manicsounds
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Re: 667 Seconds

#68 Post by manicsounds » Fri Apr 04, 2014 10:50 am

The on-set footage on this disc was something that surprised me in terms of the picture quality. Gorgeous color film, handled and stored extremely carefully. Usually vintage film pieces are in pretty poor condition (like the Frankenheimer interview on the same disc here), video quality, scratched up film, etc.

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Cameron Swift
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Re: 667 Seconds

#69 Post by Cameron Swift » Sun Aug 17, 2014 8:09 pm

Earlier in the thread, there was a discussion of movies that were similar to this one. At least in the opening half of the film, I had a strong vibe that Michel Gondry must've been inspired by this film for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Both, of course, deal with a lonely man wanting to erase his past and begin a new life, but the scene in particular that recalled it most for me was the early scene on the train, and I can't quite put my finger on why. Gondry's film also opens on a train journey, and maybe it was just that the train stations outside of New York City were visually similar, but it put me that particular frame of mind when watching it. The scene at the meat packing plant definitely seems like the type of off kilter strangeness that would appear in a Gondry film too. On top of that, Seconds also features a scene when Hamilton is drugged and appears to rape the woman involves a forced perspective room.

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Mr Sausage
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Seconds (John Frankenheimer, 1966)

#70 Post by Mr Sausage » Mon May 25, 2015 6:27 am

DISCUSSION ENDS MONDAY, JUNE 8th AT 6:30 AM.

Members have a two week period in which to discuss the film before it's moved to its dedicated thread in The Criterion Collection subforum. Please read the Rules and Procedures.

This thread is not spoiler free. This is a discussion thread; you should expect plot points of the individual films under discussion to be discussed openly. See: spoiler rules.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

I encourage members to submit questions, either those designed to elicit discussion and point out interesting things to keep an eye on, or just something you want answered. This will be extremely helpful in getting discussion started. Starting is always the hardest part, all the more so if it's unguided. Questions can be submitted to me via PM.




***PM me if you have any suggestions for additions or just general concerns and questions.***

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Sloper
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Re: Seconds (John Frankenheimer, 1966)

#71 Post by Sloper » Wed May 27, 2015 4:59 pm

The big question I always find myself asking about this film is: to what extent is it a morality tale, with a message along the lines of ‘careful what you wish for’? That seems like an obvious way to interpret it, and Frankenheimer suggests in his commentary that the film is centrally about the impossibility of erasing one’s past and starting again: our past is what makes us who we are, so if we lose that we’re nobody. A few moments in the film might support this reading, like Arthur Hamilton’s response to Charlie’s question, ‘What have you got now?’; he says ‘I don’t know’, and that could suggest a trite sort of ‘you don’t know what you’ve got...’ moral. And when Tony Wilson starts ranting about his daughter, nephew, Harvard education etc., that seems to indicate an inability, and an unwillingness, to let go of the past he’s ostensibly been trying to escape.

However, I don’t think this is really what the film is about, and I don’t think it really has a moral. Hamilton isn’t trying to get rid of his past; he’s trying to fulfil something in himself that has never been able to find expression, because of the social pressures that have pushed him to pursue certain prescribed goals. After he first says ‘I don’t know’ during the phone conversation, Charlie presses him again to get in touch with the company, and Hamilton repeats, ‘I don’t know’. The urge to go through with this change is never his own, and ultimately he’s blackmailed into it – it’s only a Faustian pact in the most superficial sense, because Hamilton’s will plays virtually no part in the process. Okay, Charlie must have ‘sold’ the idea to him in their first phone conversation, but it’s significant that the film doesn’t show us this. And yes, on some level Hamilton must be doing this because he feels he will get something out of it, but again that’s not really the impression the film gives: not only does he drift into the company’s building, he shows no real desire or enthusiasm for what they offer him, before, during or after the alteration process. It isn’t just that the company dictates what he should want and do after they’ve changed him – even the decision to be changed is one that is made for him.

The company, and the service it offers, are a manifestation of the problem Hamilton has in the first place. It’s not ‘careful what you wish for’, it’s ‘you don’t have any wishes’. What makes this film so terrifying is the remorseless way in which it spells out the nature of the problem.

It starts with the title sequence – maybe my favourite of all time, along with Psycho – in which we see the components of a scared human face blown out of proportion, divided up and put back together incongruously (that incredible shot of the face in profile, eerily divided along the bridge of the nose, the enormous left eye darting about in horror), distorted into nothingness, and finally, as the score arrives at its doom-laden climax, cloaked in a gauze mask. The camera tracks into the mouth, the only part of the face that can still express anything, as it opens and closes as though in an attempt to scream. (No wonder Harlan Ellison loves this film, as was pointed out in the existing thread.)

I remember seeing this as a teenager when it came on TV, and being very deeply scared by this title sequence. It sets the tone perfectly, and it tells you a lot about this film’s take on the human condition. In Seconds, a human being is nothing. Just bits that can be changed, manipulated, moved around, and erased. Late in the film, Wilson explains to Charlie that he had been taught to want the wrong things: ‘Things – not people, or meaning.’ The horrible truth he discovers is that there are no people, and there is no meaning. His journey to ‘the next stage’ on the hospital gurney harks back to the title sequence, as we see his gagged face lurching desperately in all directions, shot in such an intrusive close-up and edited so disorientingly that he seems to lose his humanity. He looks like a wounded dog being put out of its misery. Then, when they sedate him, even his ability to writhe and scream is taken away.

As the drill bores through his skull the camera zooms in on the harsh light pointing at him. Maybe a reference to the final shot of L’Eclisse, and that moment when the world of people and meaning is eclipsed by the street lamp. And maybe there’s something of Giovanni Fusco’s scoring of that shot in Goldsmith’s title music for Seconds?

Anyway, then comes the really interesting moment: in Hamilton/Wilson’s last seconds of consciousness – which, chillingly, we’re allowed to witness – he thinks of a father and his child walking on a beach. Apparently this came from a scene that was cut from the film (Wilson is not the father – he just sees this from a distance), but it works well as a mysterious, ultimately inexplicable ‘Rosebud’ moment, about which the film gives no prior information to help us make sense of it. Obviously, it represents some sort of meaningful human connection, real or imagined, with a parent or a child. I like to think it’s the former, a memory from early childhood when life didn’t seem to be a rigged, meaningless game, and when Hamilton felt an unconditional, mutual love for another person. But all we can say for certain is that it’s a moment of tenderness, a loving impulse deep inside this man.

Nora, ‘reading’ Wilson’s face, talks about the ‘key still left unturned’ in his innermost being, and tellingly observes that this is something that could be said about anyone. The film seems to suggest that whatever connects us to people, and whatever lends meaning to life, is so thoroughly stifled in us that it can only be accessed by the drill-bit that snuffs us out, by the moment of death itself. ‘Gotta keep pluggin’ away at the dream’, says the head of the company, and in a sense this is literally what the drill does. Like the images of the face in the title sequence, this one at the end, of the father and child on the beach, is stretched and distorted until it disappears. What the company does to Arthur Hamilton is universalised until it becomes emblematic of mortality itself. It’s a truly nihilistic take on existence, and as such cannot really function as a morality tale.

The Will Geer character says to Hamilton, ‘There’s nothing anymore, is there? Is there anything? Anything – at – all?’ Hamilton, referring to the lack of affection between him and his wife, keeps repeating the word ‘ever’. As with the ‘I don’t know’ moment earlier, this is characteristic of the way this film takes not only images but also words (nothing, any, more, ever, all) and repeats them, underlines them, until they seem to become detached from their context. There’s nothing: literally, there it is, staring out at us from the screen.

James Wong Howe’s camerawork is wonderful in all sorts of ways, especially in its intrusiveness. The camera keeps getting too close to the characters, peering nervously at them. With the exception of a couple of shots, it mostly doesn’t feel like a ‘security camera’ perspective. It’s more like the perspective of that tortured face from the title sequence, always fixating on the parts, the bits of these people, morbidly fascinated by how de-humanising it is to look at them like this. This camerawork helps to underline the sense that the film is not about some huge, powerful corporation out there ruining our lives, but rather about the more elemental nightmare of being human and mortal. Geer’s character says he’s waging a battle against human misery itself. Ultimately, all the company does is to kill you – twice – and it turns out that’s the only cure for human misery.

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swo17
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Re: Seconds (John Frankenheimer, 1966)

#72 Post by swo17 » Wed May 27, 2015 5:21 pm

Sloper wrote:The big question I always find myself asking about this film is: to what extent is it a morality tale, with a message along the lines of ‘careful what you wish for’?

However, I don’t think this is really what the film is about, and I don’t think it really has a moral. Hamilton isn’t trying to get rid of his past; he’s trying to fulfil something in himself that has never been able to find expression, because of the social pressures that have pushed him to pursue certain prescribed goals.
If anything, the message I take from the film is "learn to be happy with what you have," which is some combination of:

1. Don't expect a superficial change to solve your problems.
2. Look inside and around you--there may be things you "have" that you didn't realize, or that you've been taking for granted.
3. Don't blame your unhappiness on society. It's much easier to change yourself than society as a whole, and even if society does change in your lifetime, there's no guarantee that this will improve your wellbeing any more than a facelift would.

I mean, at least that's my optimistic take. The less optimistic one is "get used to being miserable, because trying to improve on that is just going to make things worse."

But I agree that there's a lot more going on here.

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Re: Seconds (John Frankenheimer, 1966)

#73 Post by ordinaryperson » Sun May 31, 2015 9:12 am

Last night I watched this, going in I knew that "Seconds" was getting praised left and right ever since it was released on DVD, and I felt disappointing after watching it. I'm not going to go into a huge analysis because I'm not nearly as smart to do that. This film was boring and I didn't think it was original either. Well I don't really know if it's not original but after films like "Total Recall" and "Face/Off" it doesn't seem original. I don't know if there was something like those films that came out before "Seconds". But to be frank I thought this film was boring.

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tenia
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Re: Seconds (John Frankenheimer, 1966)

#74 Post by tenia » Sun May 31, 2015 9:29 am

Sloper wrote:Ultimately, all the company does is to kill you – twice – and it turns out that’s the only cure for human misery.
This is what I remember most about the movie's subtext : there's nothing the company (which seems to me to be a metaphor of society) will provide to you that actually puts you at the center. It's looking to provide something they can make good money out of it, and they truly don't care if it works or not. Even more, I strongly felt they know it doesn't work, but that's fine : they already have everything planned out.

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domino harvey
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Re: Seconds (John Frankenheimer, 1966)

#75 Post by domino harvey » Sun May 31, 2015 10:41 am

ordinaryperson wrote:Last night I watched this, going in I knew that "Seconds" was getting praised left and right ever since it was released on DVD, and I felt disappointing after watching it. I'm not going to go into a huge analysis because I'm not nearly as smart to do that. This film was boring and I didn't think it was original either. Well I don't really know if it's not original but after films like "Total Recall" and "Face/Off" it doesn't seem original. I don't know if there was something like those films that came out before "Seconds". But to be frank I thought this film was boring.
You can't call the film unoriginal by comparing it to films which came out decades afterwards. You can say those films better utilized the ideas behind Seconds, but a film can't be held liable for movies which came out after it. I think Seconds is a bit overrated too, so I'm not coming to this from a defensive standpoint, but calling the film "boring" over and over (keep in mind the words of that one-hit wonder from the 90s: "If you're bored then you're boring") is not a productive route of discourse.

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