Seconds ★★★★½

Makes pretty clear why it was booed at Cannes, as all those French intellectuals who were turning away from “bourgeoisie life” were probably not expecting a film that basically slaps their lifestyle in their face. Last year’s viewing of The Manchurian Candidate was an exciting but somewhat disappointing revisit from when I had originally watched it in 2004, and found myself asking why that had become a classic* as opposed to this cookie filled with arsenic. Few films are filed with such vitriol despair for the American Dream, and not just the one of the middle class life of the 1950s that Hamilton realizes was essentially empty, but also the 1960s free spirit life as well. The grapes sequence literally strips Wilson of any identity to instead gloat in a nihilistic approach to life that might appear on the surface to be full of vibrancy, but ultimately can’t respond to the desires Wilson has. Ultimately, Frankenheimer critiques not the society that gives us the opportunity for all these, as portrayed by the truly Lynchian company at the center of the plot, but our own failures to articulate what exactly is the end point to the American Dream. The fact that Wilson is not only a failure, but everyone is, and the company ends up depending on those failures, only adds to the confused heart at the base of American society. Notably intense camerawork, fantastic production design, and turns a lot of iconography inside out, makes the “New Wave”-ness of Bonnie and Clyde feel particularly mundane at points. Special props for getting Rock Hunter in this, whose notable homosexual life makes his character a literal coming out, and gives a heavy, soulful performance. Watching him hear his own life examined by the one he was closest to is simply devastating.

*Candidate was of course pulled from circulation after JFK, and I’m told a screening at NYFF in 1987, followed by a subsequent re-release, solidified its reputation it holds today.

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