Zardoz (John Boorman / United Kingdom-Ireland, 1974):

"Is God in show business, too?" John Boorman's intro posits Salvador Dalí as court jester (Niall Buggy enacts the wry concept), his title refers to the giant stone Zeus head (or is it Orson Welles?) that levitates over the hilly Irish countryside centuries ahead (the year is 2293), projectile-vomiting rifles and cartridges at the barbarians below. The cataract of images gets its anchor as soon as Sean Connery, decked in crimson loincloth and braided ponytail, turns to the camera and unloads his revolver into it -- when the mustached brute rises out of a pile of wheat grain (cf. Vampyr) and discovers the clown at the top of the chain, the links to Boorman's own Point Blank become inescapable. Connery, a feral caveman who pokes his finger through a Van Gogh and is bewildered by holograms, finds himself in the Vortex, where the Eternals dwell; the intruder is analyzed and his memories of carnage and rape are projected on a screen for the jaded immortals, softcore porn is shown him yet only chilly Charlotte Rampling gets him hard, it's all "just entertainment" until he's revealed as a threat to (and, possibly, an escape from) the neurasthenic idyll. Aging becomes a punishment in a world where mortality doesn't exist, purgatory is a perpetual New Year's party at an old folks' home. There is also the omniscient hall of prismatic mirrors known as the Tabernacle ("everything... and nothing"), Jon Alderton with his half-aged face, the Apathetics who regain vitality by licking a single drop of sweat from Connery's mighty cheek. This was, amazingly, viewed as hippie-dippy nonsense rather than the apex of "most satirical," British sci-fi -- Boorman's transposition is an anagram of The Wizard of Oz that exposes it as a Biblical saga, in the process taking stock of H.G. Wells, Devil Girl from Mars, Dr. Who and 2001: A Space Odyssey. The assorted visions have been derided as impenetrable, but what is really affecting is the sublime directness of a man struggling to sort out faith from fakery and expiring gracefully with his beloved, serenaded by Beethoven. With Sara Kestelman, and Sally Ann Newton.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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