Targets ★★★★½

This is my third time seeing Targets and I'm dangerously close to bumping it up to a full 5-stars. Brilliant filmmaking, especially considering the extraordinary circumstances it was made under.

In a tight 89 minutes, Bogdanovich brings his audience directly within the intersection of life and art; of antiquated notions of horror and modern, chillingly real terror. Coming on the heels of Charles Whitman's clock tower massacre and the assassinations of JFK, Malcolm X, MLK and RFK, the film confronted a nation fearing a bogeyman that was not a hulking creation with a heavily made-up face, but a troubled youth with a high-powered rifle and some bullets to spare. Cynicism was creeping in and the idyllic portrait of suburbia painted by the Eisenhower years was being violently shattered, but the moving image still carried a certain potency.

The twin narratives of (1) an aging horror icon viewing himself as a "museum piece" and contemplating retirement to "make way for the young people" and (2) a young man having "funny thoughts" and going on a shooting rampage that climaxes at a drive-in theater intelligently address the aforementioned elements with a cool, matter-of-fact sensibility and a sharp use of POV.

Targets was way ahead of its time and I am baffled as to why it doesn't make its way into more cinema classrooms and lists of "American classics." The effect of watching this in '68 (which apparently very few did) must have been overwhelming, and quite frankly, considering America's current climate of perpetual mass shootings - massacres coming around with the predictable regularity of holidays - I can't help but find an uncomfortable poignancy in the story's events and an unexpected sense of appropriateness for the date the viewing fell upon.

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