26 de janeiro de 2010

THX 1138 (1971)

"THX 1138" is derived from a prize-winning short that George Lucas made a few years ago while a graduate student at the University of Southern California. Under the auspices of the young San Francisco film company American Zoetrope, Mr. Lucas, now 25 years old, expanded his project into the feature length science-fiction movie that opened yesterday at the Loew's Cine and Loew's State 2. I have a good many reservations about the film's ideas, but they are greatly outweighed by my admiration for a technical virtuosity that by fair means and foul achieves exceptional emotional intensity at the same time.

Set in a sanitized, computerized, monasticized underground society of the future, "THX 1138" concerns a technician (Robert Duvall) whose roommate (Maggie McOmie) decreases his daily required sedation dosage to the point where he feels desire and they make love. Apprehended for this (a capital offense), he is placed in some kind of wall-less prison that, like everything else in this society, works better in theory than in practice. Together with two companions (Donald Pleasence and Don Pedro Colley, who plays a mistakenly materialized TV image he begins an escape that for sheer suspenseful invention would do credit to the best of adventure films.

"THX 1138" is considerably more than an adventure film, but it is also considerably less than major prophetic fiction. Despite a sustained solemnity in approach and a musical background as ominously ponderous as that of "Last Year at Marienbad," "THX 1138" works with much potentially comic material (I think that Mr. Lucas is aware of this) and in the design of its--consistently beautiful--photography, observing white-garbed figures against an often undifferentiated white background, it sometimes resembles the kind of minimal-information cartoon that was indicative of good taste in animation a few years back.

"A few years back" might almost be a motto for "THX 1138," because whatever horror lies ahead, I don't think that anybody now seriously imagines that it will take the form of a de-emotionalized asexual society enslaved by its own models of technical efficiency. In this respect Mr. Lucas's film looks like a slightly old-fashioned anxiety dream--but if you can accept that (and you should), it becomes very potent material indeed.

"THX 1138" is aided by lovely performances -- not only Donald Pleasence, who with typical appeal plays a pathetically enterprising wheeler-dealer in a world that makes no deals; but also Robert Duvall and Maggie McOmie, who must achieve a kind of human identification without highly individualizing characteristics. Miss McOmie's story is pure pathos, and as it materializes in her so vulnerable flesh and then passes into electronic data it becomes one adequate image of the sadness that attends us all.

Roger Greenspun, NY Times, March 12, 1971

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