Friday, April 3, 2009

Day Eighty-Two: THX-1138 (1971) - Rank 3.5/5


Dystopia or utopia? That's the question I found myself debating after watching George Lucas' directorial debut. The film is clearly Lucas' take on George Orwell's "1984," with citizens of an unnamed country toiling for hours a day, not true slaves, but slaves of the state, so to speak. Furthermore, everything you say or do is watched by countless individuals sitting in front of computer monitors. Lucas even takes the similarities further by incorporating what can only be described as confession booths, where individuals can sit and pour out their greatest troubles to the giant head, known as OMM, as he responds robotically with "Yes" or "Go on" every few seconds. The latter example was clearly added for sheer satirical humor. Yet, despite all of this, everyone is employed and has a home with a medicine cabinet full of tranquilizer pills, so things ain't so bad...

The story follows THX (Robert Duvall) as he grows tired of living on sedatives and engages in intercourse with his roommate. As a result, he then finds himself an enemy of the state, going from prison cell to medical center to asylum and then ending up on the run. Donald Pleasance has a great role as an individual who befriends THX, a kinship with humorous, homoerotic undertones. Ian Wolfe also has a great cameo as a bombastic asylum inmate.

The main impression I had while watching the film is: "George Lucas is actually a good director." Granted, he tarnished his reputation long ago by "improving" the Star Wars trilogy, followed by a lackluster prequel trilogy and finally the bastardization of Indiana Jones. However, if you look at his first three films - "THX-1138," "American Graffiti" and "Star Wars" - it's hard to regard him as anything else but a great storyteller. It left me pondering what films he would have generated had he not fallen prey to the dark side of the film industry (seeking out wealth, fame and merchandising). Perhaps one day he'll direct a unique piece again, but I'm afraid that, for the time being, he's too content in the comfortable lifestyle his franchise has produced for him.

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