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Part psychological horror film, part science fiction film (with the theme of transformation through plastic surgery), and part “search-for-one’s own identity” film which gained prominence in the late 1960s and early 1970s, many viewers (then as now) would find Seconds hard to categorize as belonging to one specific genre. If you're confused and want to learn more, we're here to help. Ironically, 1966 was the last year the Academy gave separate awards for monochrome and color cinematography. A bedroom scene in which Hamilton realized that he cannot make love to his wife was photographed simultaneously with four handheld Arriflex cameras. They made the same decisions for me all over again, and they were the same things really.” Finally, the tragic and horrifying ending comes for Arthur Hamilton/Tony Wilson when he is pushed, kicking and screaming along the sterile corridors of the Company headquarters into the operating room, this time never to re-emerge. He later discovers this identity has been taken from someone who recently died. Later during the night, the owner of the Company discusses his original purpose for founding the organization, and assures Hamilton that the issues he has brought up will be looked into. Eyman of Take One magazine, "I would say John needs a little help to hold him down. Subscribe to Senses of Cinema to receive news of our latest cinema journal.Enter your email address below: Seconds (John Frankenheimer, 1966) is a disturbing film to watch. Seconds was Frankenheimer and Howe's last film in black-and-white. Authorship arguments can travel from the printed page to the Internet, but Seconds' radical visual statement continues to spread the message that cinematic rules were made to be broken. He was convinced for some time that rival producer Phil Spector (one of the film's investors) was taunting him through the movie, and that it was written about his recent traumatic experiences and intellectual pursuits, going so far as to note that "even the beach was in it, a whole thing about the beach. One of the great cinematographers, Howe had a wealth of impressive credits stretching back over a fifty-year career. Wilson attempts to divulge the truth to his neighbors, but he is quickly reprimanded for breaking decorum, for not playing his role amongst his hand-picked corporate friends staging his alternative life. Nora then attempts to break down Wilson’s straight-laced middle-class inhibitions. The visual impact of the film was so strong that a measure of controversy developed around Frankenheimer and Howe's contribution to the film. Despite a brief jaunt in Mathematics at Durham University, film writing was always his calling. Howe's influence on the next generation of cinematographers was formidable. The film the beat Seconds for Best Cinematography, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, put “happily ever after” and the Hays Code to rest by staging the era’s biggest stars in a verbal (and physical) boxing match.

Paradoxically, by shortening and deleting shots, the festival sequence picked up a sexual energy. Frankenheimer later admitted: “I think the problem with the film was that we had no second act. Other sets were designed in normal proportions and shot with extreme wide-angle lenses that warped their presentation. After Hamilton is drugged by the Company, he dreams of molesting a young woman in a bizarre bedroom chamber. Douglas, Frankenheimer and producer Edward Lewis had brought Seven Days in May to the screen via Paramount, and were anxious to work together again. Film historians generally acknowledge that the transformation from the Hollywood studio system to the American “New Wave” occurred with the 1969 release of Easy Rider. And you have to live with that. Us' version, which was directly inspired by Kragen's, appears to genuinely stretch across the country regardless of what mountains stand in their way, technically making it an even more striking example. Although he was in his mid-sixties when he worked on Seconds, Howe always sought to bend the rules and express a story in vivid visual terms (LoBrutto, 100). ", The picture is an odd stylistic anomaly in Howe's filmography, however, and there is some debate regarding Frankenheimer's influence on the look of the picture. A lot of the Tethered's origins are left unexplored in Us. Some years later, Aller helped Alonzo upgrade his status to director of photography. Alonzo was shooting documentaries for David L. Wolper when he was summoned to the set of Seconds to help out. The combination of Frankenheimer's keen visual sense and Howe's masterly use of the camera gave Seconds its uncommon look. (To my knowledge, they don't have staff surgeons or "cadaver procurement departments" like those in. The wide angles were used to extenuate the mood. For a sequence of Hamilton arriving home, the crew went to Scarsdale to shoot at the local train station. “The distortion of what society had made this man, what the Company then turned him out to be, and finally when he was going to his death everything had to be that complete distortion of reality and the fact that it was all just utter nonsense.”.

Spoilers ahead for Us.. For the most part, movies are not puzzles. That I was told to want. When Seconds was released in 1966, 36-year-old John Frankenheimer was a member of the new breed of directors trained in the medium of television (Sidney Lumet being another notable example). I think that point was very well brought out in Seconds, that’s what the film is all about”. At the time Seconds was made, 36-year-old John Frankenheimer was part of a new breed of directors trained in the “Golden Age” of live television in the Fifties. Us shows the night the Tethered emerge from their underground prison, with most (but, as evidenced by Jason, not all) having weakened their psychic connection. Thus, Hamilton/Wilson hears for the first time his wife’s honest thoughts of their marriage – the years of silent distance, the inability to read one another, the slow change into somebody totally unrecognizable in front of the person you ostensibly share your life with. This article was originally published in American Cinematographer, November, 1997. They both end up cavorting inside a large wine vat, mingling with other revelers (mostly uninhibited non-actors on hand for the festivities), stomping grapes and celebrating their nudity and free spirits (these scenes were actually shot at the Feast of Bacchus, a festival held every year in Santa Barbara, California). Hamilton arrives at a meat-packing plant for a meeting. Reserved. As remarked upon by R. Barton Palmer (no relation) and Murray Pomerance in their visual essay accompanying the Criterion disc, Seconds upon release had more in common with European art cinema than mid-60s Hollywood filmmaking in terms of both its themes and its visual style. His work was both classical and experimental and gave his disciples the drive to explore new visual storytelling vistas. Seeking realism, Frankenheimer had Hudson actually get drunk for the scene a risky tactic which demanded that many shots be covered in one take by multiple cameras. Because of the extensive use of wide-angle lenses, Seconds was a demanding exercise for the film's camera operators. This theme is considerably enhanced by Howe and Frankenheimer’s experimentation with a 9.7 mm fisheye lens. The years I’ve spent trying to get all the things I was told were important. (Prately, 143) Possibly, the use of an unknown actor in place of Hudson may have made for a more convincing Tony Wilson. The key scene of their courtship was shot at an actual Feast of Bacchus festival held every year in Santa Barbara, California, during which male and female sun worshippers shed all their clothes and cavort in a wine vat, stomping grapes and celebrating their nudity and free spirits. Part science fiction, part thriller, part horror, part film noir, part black comedy (watch for the crispy chicken scene), Seconds is a period piece that is more contemporary than ever. “I was in front of him, walking backwards through the crowd, photographing him with a fairly wide 24mm lens. Seconds is a film both profoundly of its time and insightful enough to see beyond it. ", Identity theft, likewise, was still an almost unknown concept in the 1960s, but in Seconds it's clear that there was a real, modestly successful artist named Antiochus Wilson; Hamilton's surgical makeover is accurate enough to fool a longtime friend of the real Wilson who accosts him in an airport. However, the real weakness with Seconds is the exploration of Wilson’s character in the second half of the film. I told him I could and he basically responded, 'Well, don't screw it up, kid, or you're in trouble.”. Hamilton is offered a second chance at youth and a new, vital way of life by a mysterious, nameless Company in exchange for his substantial wealth. All Rights

It paints a frightening picture of a dehumanised and controlling world. Instead of honestly exploring the ordeal of assuming a second identity, the script subsides for nearly an hour into conventional Hollywood fantasy. How they or the connection were originally created and how a mirror life leading to the same children was subsequently developed is left dangling for the audience to imagine - it may be that Zora is correct and this is just one part of a greater skewing of reality - but that's because the only important thing is that they exist; the film's real focus is on their life after creation. Seven cameras, often handheld, were hidden from view. Frankenheimer had also intended to restore a scene in which the transformed Hamilton visits his daughter, but the footage could not be found. You can change it but you can’t change who you are or what you’ve done before. The cameraman walked off the project. I wanted that journey to the operating theater to be done in a simple style, with subjective camera, but John Frankenheimer differed. To shoot in Grand Central Station without attracting too much attention, Frankenheimer hired a male model and a, This page was last edited on 5 November 2020, at 00:32. Another way in which technology has been on the side of Seconds is in the reproduction itself, especially in rendering depth of field and sometimes-excruciating facial closeups. Wilson, in a desperate and futile attempt to re-connect with his “past life”, returns to his old home and former wife. Seconds was also the last feature film that Howe shot in black-and-white, the medium in which he earned a reputation as one of America's finest cinematographers. Starved of sunlight and living off rabbits, they become warped, mute versions of their original. They are perfect copies - or shadows - created by the U.S. government as a means of controlling the population and stored in the labyrinth of deserted tunnels underneath the country (a reference to the Mole People urban myth). Each Tethered is connected to their above-ground counterpart through a psychic connection, with all aspects of their life recreated meticulously. “Local 659 had absolutely no operators available,” recalls Alonzo today, some 32 years later. To achieve verisimilitude, Frankenheimer and Howe again adopted a hidden camera technique to film actor John Randolph coming off the train in a real-life setting among real suburban commuters. During his career, he worked with many first-tier directors, including Victor Fleming, Howard Hawks, Frank Borzage, Erich von Stroheim, Busby Berkeley, Raoul Walsh, Michael Curtiz, Fritz Lang and Lewis Milestone. “My first shot had Hudson coming into this crowded living room full of people smoking and drinking,” Alonzo remembers. It’s in this regard that Seconds uses science fiction’s greatest tool: the potential for implausible scenarios to materialize profound truths that don’t embrace typically narrative exploration in a more straightforward way.

The initial purpose of the Tethered in Us was to literally turn the population into puppets: from underground, the Tethered would dictate everybody's life, removing free will and leaving leaders in complete control. Haworth's art department designed and built interiors to match the exterior on a soundstage on the studio lot in Hollywood. The camera, often mounted to the gurney and fitted with either the 9.7mm or an 18mm lens, is an unflinching witness to Wilson's desperate yet vain efforts to free himself; the optics bend the set walls inward, adding to the claustrophobic horror of the sequence: Another of Haworth’s notable creations was a bedroom set that appears in a drug-induced hallucination sequence.

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