Zardoz: Turn On, Tune In, Destroy Everything

10/17/2012 4:00 AM |

Zardoz (1974)
Directed by John Boorman
Friday, October 19, at 92YTribeca

It’s amazing that Boorman was able to get a major studio to produce and release this trippy, campy science fiction drama that essentially encourages viewers to destroy everything and start from scratch; “everything” includes art, science and almost all other forms of higher learning and thinking. The film may be remembered as an epochal whatsit, but it’s also kind of an incendiary, unsparingly weird call to consciousness-expanding arms. And unlike something like Alejandro Jodorowsky’s The Holy Mountain, another film that pushes viewers to leave the theater and start a revolution, Zardoz infiltrated multiplexes world-wide.

As Zed, a bondage-mankini-clad Renegade, Sean Connery similarly infiltrates the decadent Eternals’ high society in a mad scheme to raze all human civilization and hit the reset button. Armed with his mustache and gun, Zed takes aim at the Tabernacle, the repository of all human knowledge, and the Eternals, led by a young and very sexy Charlotte Rampling. Boorman’s scenario is so strange and rich that one can’t help but admire its sheer bugfuckery. For example, the immortal Eternals can only age if they psychically attack each other; once older, they imprison each other in a menagerie where all the other “Renegades” are kept. Looking at the scene where Zed discovers the Renegades, you can’t help but wonder: how the hell did they get away with this? Zardoz is Boorman’s baby all over, from the film’s hippy-dippy themes of universal connectivity right down to the transcendentally avant-garde set pieces. You may think you want Joss Whedon to direct Avengers 2, but after Zardoz, you might think twice.