The first part of this film I ever saw was the famous scene with everyone shouting from their windows. It was in a film history course I took a few years ago, and ever since I saw the clip, I’d been really wanting to see the whole film. That scene really moved me when I first saw it – it spoke to me in a way that the most touching and emotional of scenes from other classic movies don’t – but I had to wait to watch it until I was in the right mood. Since that course was back in early 2014, it seemed like late 2016 was a good time, ensuring that the scene wouldn’t be so fresh in my memory that it would be spoiled. For this most recent viewing, once I could tell the scene was coming, I turned off the lights, sat up close to the screen, and let it overpower me. Because the scene is so greatly enhanced by its context in the plot, I found myself quivering as tears fell down my face, and all I could do was remark at the beauty of what I was experiencing. I’ve found myself tearing up while writing this review just at the thought of it, and this is a very unusual sort of experience for me. This is exactly what cinema should be doing, and in a time when artsy drivel like 2001 is seen as the kind of thing the elite film critics want from Hollywood, it’s nice to know that a film with true meaning and power is still regarded as a great cinematic achievement.
As for the rest of the film, it’s not bad. It can be a little boring at times, but most of it is pretty satisfying in its comedy, its irony, or at the very least its brutal honesty. The film shows us exactly what we would like to think the evil overlords behind our television programming would be saying and doing behind closed doors. The balance between comedy and drama is pretty good, particularly with the way the lines between the two are blurred. I will say that I found it somewhat difficult to keep track of names and faces, but the story kept me interested. The writing is smart, the characters are what they ought to be, and the ending is just perfect (and it merits comparison to the ending of another of my favorite ’70s movies, Phantom of the Paradise, to gain an appreciation of the cinema of the Vietnam-era and the years that followed). What’s most impressive about the story is that it manages to be very dramatic, very absurd, and very believable all at the same time, such that the ridiculous solution proposed at the end of the film leaves the viewer gaping and thinking, “By gosh, at this point that actually seems plausible!”
Essentially, the movie is an interesting analysis of the normalization of madness, and it raises the question of just how sane a species we truly are.