Thursday, November 21, 2013

SECONDS (John Frankenheimer, 1966, USA)

Arthur Hamilton loses himself in the drudgery of middle age and conceit, possessed by materialism and success which have become superficial trappings that resonate in the empty chambers of his aging heart. He is adrift and alone, a wife and daughter can offer no salvation from these distant shores of space, and he must find himself once again…or continue to walk the earth virtually lifeless, a victim to the slow fade of love.
But Arthur gets a Second chance. A phone call from a “deceased” friend sets him up for a new identity, to become not only a different person but start life afresh, to breathe in the sweetness of youth tempered with the wisdom of maturity. He is reborn. But he must shed the guilt of his former life and become Tony Wilson; his old life must remain dead. Arthur’s change is only superficial and he is still imbued with the same rotting essence; he has not come to terms with the root of his inner conflict, he has only treated the symptoms. Baptized in the wine and passion of free love, he cannot shed his old skin and seeks his old life, only to discover that he was not as loved (or missed) as he thought. Arthur’s second life is now measured in seconds as his corpse will be put to good use…for the next consumer.
John Frankenheimer and legendary cinematographer James Wong Howe films with paranoid and frantic close-ups, the camera moving through crowds like an invisible angry spirit, a vengeful ghost haunting its next victim. Howe skews identity with mirrored twisting images and surreal hallucinations. This beautiful cinematography reveals Arthur’s confusion and turmoil and his inability to socialize. His inner voice is now mute. The score heightens the tension towards his narcissistic self-destruction and is hammered with irony: as he finally begins the long journey to enlightenment he realizes there are no third chances. In vino veritas: no matter where you go, there you are.

Final Cut: (B+)