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Episode 116 - Seconds (w/ Matt Zoller Seitz)


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Poll: Episode 116 - Seconds (w/ Matt Zoller Seitz) (29 member(s) have cast votes)

Should "Seconds" enter The Canon?

  1. Yes (22 votes [75.86%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 75.86%

  2. No (7 votes [24.14%] - View)

    Percentage of vote: 24.14%

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#1 Dalton Maltz

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Posted 20 August 2017 - 10:36 PM

Film critic Matt Zoller Seitz joins Amy this week to discuss the 1966 Rock Hudson feature “Seconds.” They discuss the horrific aspects of the film’s opening, director John Frankenheimer’s technical inventiveness, and the theme of suburban disaffection. Plus, Matt does his best Burt Lancaster impression before they assess the mythological overtones of “Seconds.”

#2 ijustliketowatch

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Posted 21 August 2017 - 07:04 AM

Soft yes. The first time I saw this, I thought it was kind of minor, but I've thought about it a lot since then. The themes and ideas it plays with are challenging and discomfiting and (at the expense of possibly falling into the trap Matt and Amy reference near the end) I think that's what makes it worth seeing. Hudson is very good playing against type, but all of the performances work well. Visually, it's always interesting. I'm not sure it fits under the header of movies people need to see, but I'm in favor of a big Canon and I like that this film sparks discussion.

#3 nakedbrunch

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Posted 21 August 2017 - 07:58 AM

I enjoyed the first hour of the film in that it felt like a solid episode of the Twilight Zone. The disconcerting camera movements, haunting music, mysterious plot and slightly hammy acting of the various company functionaries all set me up for some kind of symbolic twist, followed by Rod Serling waxing poetic on the 'Emptiness of Man's Existence'. Then a bunch of hippies show up and I'm transported to a second tier Fellini film.

Even with the bleak ending (and Hudson's rather terrifying acting when he realizes he is about to die), the film never really recovers from that shift. Matt Zoller Seitz mentioned Frankenheimer's love of the European/Japanese new wave, and this film feels in a lot of ways a lesser version of what Fellini, Bergman and Kurosawa were trying to do in the same period. In that case, we should maybe consider those films for the canon instead.

Soft no, but I'm happy I saw it.
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#4 sycasey 2.0

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Posted 21 August 2017 - 10:37 AM

I vote yes. I acknowledge that it's not perfect (the middle section with the bacchanalia does run pretty long), but I agree with MZS that the more you sit with the film the more that stuff fades in importance. You're left with the terrific opening and the chilling ending, and the rest, in retrospect, seems like the necessary journey to get there.

#5 daustin

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Posted 22 August 2017 - 05:44 AM

Soft no. I love the first half, especially the wild camerawork, but it really bogs down in the second half.

#6 TheFanon

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Posted 22 August 2017 - 11:02 AM

I showed this movie to my father a few years ago and he had a pretty strong positive reaction to it. Even if this doesn't get into the Canon, it absolutely deserves to be in the Canon of movies to show to people once they hit their sixties.

I really like Seconds, despite its serious pacing issues. It's an ambitious piece of serious science fiction that initially did not get the acclaim it deserved. Sci-fi films of the time rarely felt this personal. It's a yes for me.

#7 brookers

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Posted 22 August 2017 - 01:49 PM

The "rich, handsome white guy who mopes because he wishes life were more meaningful" theme irks me a bit when I think about it, but I often seem to fall for it nonetheless. My opinion swung back and forth while watching this movie, and continues to after having finished it, but I gave it a soft yes. The first and last 20 minutes were incredible, but like Amy, I felt that there were chunks missing in the middle. Upon thinking more about what I wanted from it, I realized that I was reacting to the emptiness of Anthony's life in Malibu, and perhaps wanting to see him at least attempting to find happiness and meaning there, or trying to develop a stronger connection with Nora. But, without needing to attribute any attempt at being meta on the part of the film makers, I decided maybe the point was that Arthur had decades to seek meaning in his charmed first life, and then a second chance to do so as Anthony, but he completely squandered both times. At the end of the film he talks about wanting a third chance because he's realized the importance of doing things on his own, and the importance of choice, but he doesn't seem to have learned the lesson that he's been capable of seeking meaning and making his own choices all along. As optimistic as he was about getting a third chance, it's impossible to imagine that things would have gone any differently.

Overall, the camera work was incredible and I enjoyed seeing Hudson in such a different role. A couple of the movie's quieter scenes, like the one where Arthur's wife attempts to initiate sex and the distance and lack of connection between the two characters is apparent, will haunt me for some time. And as a final note, Wikipedia claims that for a DVD release, Frankenheimer wanted to restore a deleted scene in which Hamilton visits his daughter, but the footage couldn't be found.

#8 Johnny Pomatto

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Posted 22 August 2017 - 08:19 PM

This is another tough decision for me. I've always been very fond of SECONDS. Long before I saw the film, I had nightmares just from a still image of Hudson strapped to the gurney, gagged with the rubber tubing, which I saw at too young an age in an old Century of Cinema book. When I finally saw the film, I had built up the horror so much in my mind that I don't think it could have ever completely satisfied. And it doesn't, but it's still close. I think the setup of the film is outstanding, with John Randolph doing some wonderful and too often under-appreciated work, ultimately getting overshadowed by his alter-ego Rock Hudson. But the way that they coldly set up the details and process of faking his death and preparing the surgery, (over a chicken lunch no less), has always been particularly haunting and disturbing to me. Once Rock Hudson enters the film, I do feel that the premise isn't ever fully realized. Clearly part of the point is that most people who undergo the procedure are instantly faced with the discovery that this hasn't solved their problems and they're unhappy, but the individual scenes that play out aren't fully what we want to see. I'm able to forgive them film its lulls and missteps because Frankenheimer's direction and Howe's cinematography are so stunning and bewitching that they make even the weaker scenes immensely compelling.

Although I do love this film, I think I'll have to vote NO for Canon inclusion. Declaring a film "Canon-Worthy" is to suggest that it is required viewing, and I'm not sure that it is. Frankenheimer made so many films that demonstrate an equally powerful flare that I don't know if I can say that this is superior enough to something like The Manchurian Candidate, The Train, Seven Days in May, or the wildly underrated French Connection II. I subjected my wife to a viewing of SECONDS this week to prepare, and while she did enjoy it, once the naked bodies were dancing amongst the grapes and I saw her glancing down at her phone, I considered that perhaps I oversold it a bit. I'm glad the film was introduced into discussion, because it really should be seen and discovered by more people, but I wouldn't necessarily force it upon them. One has to be a willing participant to truly be swept away by this film. Now I'll try to enjoy the rest of my week as I wrestle with my vote on REAL LIFE. So many thoughts...

#9 rickyssofake

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Posted 23 August 2017 - 05:47 PM

Clear yes for me. This was my second time watching Seconds, and I think it's pairing with the stepford wives was helpful. Although Amy and Matt didn't really discuss it (kind of odd considering how much Mad Men was brought up), what got me this time around was how strongly it presents the link between modern ennui and commercialism - in a much bleaker way than the stepford Wives did (while the latter ties commercialism so closely to feminine ideals, here it's SO bleakly presented as a trap that feeds on modern aimlessness).

While I think I understand the complaint that it feels incomplete, that may just come with the territory of making a movie about ennui, a topic that couldn't be more vague and quiet. It's true that i'm not too familiar with Frankenheimer's other work (I've only seen the Manchurian candidate and too long ago), I'm certain there should be room for this one.

#10 raz

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Posted 24 August 2017 - 03:46 AM

I felt the same way about Seconds as I did about Stepford Wives. I was happy to see both films, but thought they both feel a bit incomplete. However, if Stepford Wives is in the Canon then I don't see how I couldn't put Seconds in the Canon.

#11 alt0782

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Posted 24 August 2017 - 05:37 AM

Enthusiastic yes and as a man I'd like to say to Amy, I would love to look like a young Paul Newman.

#12 Bruno Bolisarte

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Posted 24 August 2017 - 04:02 PM

I'm surprised at the lukewarm response to Seconds, it's a firm YES for me. It blew me away on first viewing with its inventiveness and cutting, dark tone.

#13 vanveen13

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Posted 24 August 2017 - 11:33 PM

I really like this film a lot and think it's worth putting in the cannon. There's a slight slackness in it, because as fun and fascinating as this idea is for a movie (and book) the idea isn't quite developed with the imagination it should have been, similar to The Stepford Wives. Yet this movie has stuck in my head for decades. Unlike most of the other people in the forum, I prefer the second half of the film when Rock Hudson starts his new life and it's just an empty fantasy that has no depth, history or meaning to it--the whole thing's a narcisitic commercial day dream turned nightmare. He wanted a second chance to be free of modern adulthood banality but in going for it becomes more trapped than he was in his previous life as a man in the gray flannel suit. The sixties shades of paranoia that develops out of his coming to realize that his new sexy California lifestyle and girlfriend, designed and canned to his specifications, is totally fake and empty, suggest something I've never quite seen in portrayed in another movie, something really creepy a film like Her ultimately avoided. I think, especially, that the hot free spirit lover who's only with Hudson because the corporation which made him over wanted him watched and kept in line--is just a very bizzarre and frightening idea. What does she think about sleeping with this guy and acting like she cares about him for her job? And how long is she willing to do this? The best part is that when Hudson, unhappy with bohemian artsiness, asks for yet a third chance you suddenly see he hasn't figured out that what he feels in all his lives is pretty much the price of being human. He thinks he can escape the human condition itself if he can get the right setup going for himself, without understanding he's doomed. The way it relates to the Stepford Wives, I would say, is that Hudson's horror at realizing his new girlfriend is a fake is what the husbands of Stepford would probably have felt with their ghastly robot mates, prompting them to try escape the consequences of what they had done. My problem with this movie isn't a total paranoid freak out. Just as the Manchurian Candidate wasn't far out enough and the straight thriller elements were used to hold things together made some of it clunky and campy, the relatively realistic handling of this speculative idea holds it down, giving it the heavy feel of a drama from the golden age of television. If only the movie could have jumped into the weirdo tone of the cocktail party scene near the end and sustained it this might be up there with something like A Clockwork Orange. Still, it's well observed. I love the scene where Hudson talks to his widow and discovers she didn't know him any better than he knew himself. It's flawed but it has a nightmare truth that gets under the skin.

#14 FictionIsntReal

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Posted 25 August 2017 - 02:35 PM

This is an interesting companion-piece to the Stepford Wives in that this was a commercial failure which fewer people have heard of, but in terms of filmmaking I'd definitely recommend it to any cinephile. This actually leaves me on the fence as to whether it deserves my vote...

#15 bleary

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Posted 27 August 2017 - 01:49 PM

I loved the episode, I'm glad I watched the film, and I'm a huge fan of Matt Zoller Seitz, which makes me a little sad that I'm a soft no on this one.

I think it's technically very impressive, but not enough for me to put it in on those merits alone. And although some seem to be lauding the inventiveness of the plot, to me it just felt like a full length Twilight Zone episode with some pacing problems. The whole sequence from when Arthur gets to the Company to when he actually gets valmorphanized is much longer than I felt it needed to be, and the early scenes of Tony assimilating to his new life dragged as well, in my opinion.

Certainly, there were bright parts. As mentioned in the episode, the camerawork in that opening scene is really fantastic. I also greatly enjoyed both scenes with his wife, both Arthur's scene with her at the beginning and later when Tony goes to visit her. I really liked Murray Hamilton's bit part as Charlie. And I thought the score was excellent and gave the film the perfect tone. For all these reasons, I'm glad that this episode introduced me to this film. But the rest didn't really do much for me, and as I said above, I found the plot a bit predictable and a bit slow at times. Very, very soft no for me.