Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Philip Kaufman / U.S., 1978):

Alien spores drift toward Earth in the opening, which modulates effortlessly into a lampoon of lyrical floral montages as inoffensive droplets landing on lush leaves sprout into arachnoid crawlies. It's San Francisco near the end of American cinema's great conspiracy decade, Philip Kaufman keeps the disorientating gags coming -- dissonant squeaks are revealed as Robert Duvall in priestly robes on a playground swing (a four-second POV shot makes the screen seesaw). Brooke Adams voices the ultimate terror of disconnection as her husband (Art Hindle) stares dead-eyed at the TV set with headphones on: "This isn't like you." Health inspector Donald Sutherland, used to peeking into caldrons, has no option when faced with Adams' plight other than to send her to a Dr. Feel-Good quack who passes out "psychological band-aids" and is played by Leonard Nimoy in a very rich exacerbation of W.D. Richter's New Age satire. The mellow eccentricity of the Bay Area is cracked by shadowy encounters between expressionless humanoids, the early stages of an invasion; pods give birth to replicas while people sleep, the originals crumble into dust. Don Siegel gave the frissons classical sharpness while Kaufman goes for baroque erudition, thus the original's tell-tale pooch is now a barking apparition with its owner's noggin. Velikovsky's Worlds in Collision figures in the discovery of an unformed body in the mud spa ran by Jeff Goldblum and Veronica Cartwright, the alien metamorphosis in the greenhouse registers Keats's "Ode on Indolence" ("My head cool-bedded in the flowery grass...") as well as Audrey II's final flowering in Corman's Little Shop of Horrors. "The CIA? FBI? They're all pods already!" Sutherland's windshield, cracked by vengeful restaurateurs, becomes a crucial compositional element alongside the precise nocturnal chiaroscuro of Michael Chapman's cinematography, all at the service of Kaufman's portrait of the lull between the hippie epoch and the "Me generation." The final image points to Munch and The Tenant, and zooms into the void. With Lelia Goldoni.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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