Before George Lucas became a juvenile baboon, he forged this cold, stark, strangely convincing vision of the future. Heavily indebted to Yevgeny Zamyatin’s novel We, THX-1138 reveals the sterile nightmare of emotional suppression, where sex and love are only a brief indulgence permitted to the doomed and insane. There is something seductively plausible about the way in which the population have given themselves up to an obscure ruling class, spending their days weeping into automated confession booths, wasting their nights on the mind-numbing entertainment offered by the state. Lucas’ frozen, spotless society is a utopia of sorts – a timeless paradise without feeling, obsessed with protection. This is an amazingly austere film, perfectly constructed, like the inner workings of a clockwork heart.
The original student film on which Thx-1138 was based is available to watch here:
4. MAD MAX 2 / ROAD WARRIOR
Mel Gibson is in Clint Eastwood mode here, ripping through the arid wastelands of a lawless outback in his Ford Falcon Coupe, outrunning and outgunning the crazed, feral fuel jackals eager to rape and murder for a half cup of diesel. George Miller’s ambitious dystopian western brings to life a desperate world populated by bands of bastard survivors. Gibson’s wounded, brutal, lonesome Max is the perfect hero for the badlands of the nuclear prairie — a much copied post-apocalyptic archetype — a man of necessity and grim humour prepared for nothing but tragedy. People hark of the parodic mythology of the ‘smegma crazies’ and the ‘gayboy beserkers’ but it’s only a thin veil of historical complexity over the real, raw joy of the film: the merciless violence and the awesomely staged pursuits along the seemingly endless highways of a very Australian kind of hell.
Clip: Making of Mad Max 2 featurette:
3. TOTAL RECALL
Total Recall is a hyper-real, multi-layered, hardboiled, neon-scorched, sex-fuelled pop masterpiece. Paul Veerhoven’s most inspired touch was to cast Arnold Schwarzenegger as the split personality Quaid / Hauser. A role that calls for emotional complexity and the ability to portray simultaneously, convincingly, two conflicting heroes is ripped to shreds by Arnie, who stomps through the mind-bending narrative like an irrepressible juggernaut: eyes, veins and biceps bulging, Total Recall is an aggressive assault on the senses. Throw into the mix the finely woven Philip K Dick plot, the sneering presence of genre-hound Michael Ironside, a superbitch turn from Sharon Stone and the lung-busting climax, and you have a classic of 80s cinema: hostile, noisy and brilliant.
The whole film cut to 7 minutes:
2. LE JETÉE
In the ruins of the future, mankind longs for the comforts and simplicity of the past. The surface of the earth has been soured by a disaster, so humans dwell underground, standing guard ‘over a kingdom of rats’. Obsessed with developing the technology to return to the past for medicine, food and possibly to avert the disaster, the ‘inventors’ experiment on prisoners, finally selecting a man whom they wish to release into history. This haunted, mysterious stranger soon finds himself trapped in a recurring nightmare. To say too much is to spoil one of the most satisfying and crushing endings in cinema. Chris Marker’s enigmatic 26-minute film is legendary. It is a chilling, frightening piece of work, all the more potent and horrific for its brevity. Yet, strangely beautiful and serene, the power of the film lingers long in the memory, the mournful sensations of its hero are heartfelt and tender. Inspiration for the deliriously pleasing Twelve Monkeys, Marker’s film is like a distilled potion, part medicine, part poison, intoxicating nonetheless.
1. BLADE RUNNER
One of the most perfectly realised, integrated visions of the future, Ridley Scott’s masterpiece is a seamless transition from now to when: a deconstructed, impersonal world in which corporate interests have obliterated any social cohesion. Harrison Ford, as the transposed film noir detective, Deckard, stalks the rain swept belly of the metropolis, terminating replikants who are, in almost every way, more human than himself. At once visceral and literate, grave and romantic, Blade Runner is a vast improvement on Philip K Dick’s comic novel. The gloomy, dreamy soundtrack from Vangelis echoes the theme of synthesis and processed emotion that reverbs through the film, the sodden, warped sounds haunting Deckard’s every uncertain step into unknown territories. The film will stand as Ridley Scott’s best work, reigniting a decaying genre and shaping forever our imaginings of things to come. Never has the future seemed so awfully real, so teeming with the traps we are setting today.
An almost too exciting trailer for the recent final cut: