Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Illustrated Man (1969; starring Rod Steiger and Claire Bloom. Dir. Jack Smight)

One cannot live on music alone.  Right?
Maybe.  Maybe not.

In either case, I love films almost as much as I love music and books.  I must admit I'm not nearly the "snob" that I am when it comes to the two aforementioned mediums. But, I don't think that it would be out of the question if I was told that I am a bit snooty when it comes to film.  I don't know all of the ins and outs about making films and in some circles my tastes might be a bit pedestrian.  I am far from an overly critical art-house turd.  However, it is fair to say that I loathe most, if not all, "Summer Blockbuster" action films, most modern comedies and don't even get me started on the state of modern horror films.

Look...In my opinion, three of the greatest films of all time are "Convoy", "Roadhouse" as well as "The Beastmaster" and I say this without the slightest ounce of sarcasm or hipster-dipshit approved irony.

That said, I try to be somewhat adventurous when selecting a film to watch.  As with the music I enjoy, I tend to prefer older films, so most of the films you'll find here will be just that...older.  But, it is safe to say a review of a newer one will slip in from time to time.  However,unlike the music reviews that will appear in this blog, I will be equally inclined to post about films I disliked as well as the ones that I enjoyed.

Which brings me to The Illustrated Man - released in 1969, starring Rod Steiger and Claire Bloom.

Being a fan of Ray Bradbury's work, I really, really wanted to like this film, but found it too problematic to be able to recommend this film without reservation.

The film is an anthology of sorts with a wraparound based on the Ray Bradbury book of the same name.  The plot involves a man hitchhiking across country to find work and has the misfortune of running into the titular character, played by Rod Steiger.  Steiger is seeking a house occupied by a woman named Felicia (played by Claire Bloom) who he had a brief affair with and covered him in tattoos.

Each tattoo tells a story related to Steiger, the woman and the young hitchhiker.  All three of the stories (the book contained eighteen) deal with the nature of mankind and its relationship with technology as well as a multitude of other existential questions.  

The film  has a hallucinatory quality that starts off interesting but soon becomes tiresome as none of these images do anything to move the plot forward.  Thus, leaving the aforementioned queries unanswered or at the very least provide any substantive perspective.  Most importantly the film never bothers to answer how any of the principles are connected or provide any clues as to what the tattoos might represent in relation to the story.  Rather, the whole films looks as if it were hastily assembled set pieces cobbled together during a hash smoking bender.

But,perhaps the most glaring flaw is with the performance Rod Steiger gives as the title character.  He insists on being intense in every single scene and delivers nearly all of his dialogue as if he is about to go into a "roid rage" at any moment.

The Illustrated Man is only interesting to view in the context of the time period in which it was made.  Science fiction films of the 1960's were few an far between.  There was 2001: A Space Odyssey, which provided philosophical insight, and Planet of the Apes as well as Fahrenheit 451, both containing poignant social commentary.  The Illustrated Man in it's self-important psychedelic haze seeks to have both, but contains neither.