Borderlands (Zev Berman, 2007): 6.5/10

The Magic Flute (Ingmar Bergman, 1975): 7/10

La Guerre Est Finie (Alain Resnais, 1966): 7/10

Speed Racer (The Wachowski Brothers, 2008): 8/10

My Photo
Location: milwaukee, wi

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Altered States (Ken Russell, 1980)

The concept behind Altered States is a thoroughly fascinating one: is there genetic memory in all of our bodies? How can we tap into it? The answers, in the movie at least, are yes, and through Mexican hallucinogenics and a sensory deprivation tank. While I'd like to believe the first is true, the second is a bit harder to swallow, and what makes Altered States an impressive try, but not very effective.

First off, the effects. I understand that they may have been impressive 26 years ago, but they really did not age well at all. The hallucinating montages are equally visually impressive/scary and cheesy, and the last scene is probably the epitome of 80s special effects. Even though I was getting into the message of the film, the effects brought me out of it a little. This isn't really the movie's fault (how could Ken Russell have known that it would look so corny in the future?), but it's still a disadvantage.

The feud between director Russell and screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky has been well reported. Chayefsky eventually demanded that his name be taken off of the credits because he felt that Russell destroyed the movie. I felt the exact opposite, that Russell's beautiful direction saved the film from Chayefsky's self-important, pseudo-science screenplay (adapted from his own novel). Russell is known for his lavish directorial style, and I think it really worked well here, in the story of trying to find Truth (if it exists) through hallucinations. William Hurt (in his first film role!) does a good job at portraying the obsessive, anti-emotional nature of Eddie Jessup, the scientist obsessed with finding out if out bodies have internal memories. Blair Brown, as his long-suffering wife, does a serviceable job, but is so beautiful, and Russell really shoots her in a marvelous way, especially during the hallucination scenes.

I was really enjoying the movie until the end. Without spoiling it completely for anyone who hasn't seen it, the ending (which is true of Chayefsky's novel, I have heard) is a true Hollywood ending, with all problems being resolved overly simply. It just does not work with these characters, especially Dr. Jessup, who has been so rational, almost bordering, ironically enough, into the irrational, the whole movie. Maybe Jessup did learn something profound in his last trip that changed everything he believed in his whole life, but I think it would have been more interesting for him to find out that not everything does end happily. A good watching experience that made me want to see more of Russell's films, but I just wish i could have seen it when it came out, to experience the "newness" of Russell's experiment.


Labels: ,

StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble It!

Comments on "Altered States (Ken Russell, 1980)"


post a comment