Sunday, March 4, 2012

They're Here!

This week, the film class took on the last of the "classics" on the syllabus.  (Also the last of the B&W films!)  A film that can be read as an indictment of the Red Scare and/or the dark shadow of the American dream, Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a fascinating film to watch with a little background of the 1950s.  Often, when people think of the America of the 1950s, they think of an idyllic time captured in Leave It to Beaver and The Andy Griffith Show, conveniently forgetting that those television shows were not documentaries.  Life in the 1950s was as messy and complicated as any other time and America was wrestling with itself.  Conformity was prized and people chafed against that.  Racism was rampant, tranquilizers were prescribed at an alarming rate, states tried to regulate the content of comic books, and the consumer culture was booming.  At the same time, we were engaged in a messy not-quite-war in Korea and there was a growing fear that Communists were trying to take us over from within.  Don Siegel’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers tapped into the common fear that our society was being undermined by secret agents who looked just like us, but didn't feel emotions like us.

Set in the fictional California town of “Santa Mira” (which has been used in several other film projects), Invasion holds up well all these years later.  (It should – it’s been remade at least three times in the decades since it was first released.)  Who can you trust?  How do you know?  In a world in which even sleep is deadly, these questions become crucial to answer.  Invasion isn’t gory-scary, but it still packs a psychological punch that may leave viewers as restless as many Americans felt in the 1950s.

COMING SOON:  We leave our study of classics behind and dive into a brave new world of genre mixing with Ridley Scott’s Alien.  While more violent and gory than anything we’ve seen up to now, Alien is justly renowned for its mastery of what you THINK you saw.  Cramped spaces, an entirely new sort of female character and a horror that is truly horrible – Alien has it all!

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