Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Invasion of the Body Snatchers at MCASD, La Jolla, Thursday Nite @ 7pm

As I was tooling around Laredo in the late 1970s, a would-be "Sicilian" lothario in an AMC Pacer (before Wayne's World made the Pacer seem retro-cool), American cinema was playing out our latest national pathology on the big screen: alien invasion. But not just any kind of invasion, this was a nightmare pathology of invasion and infiltration, the supplementation of the body by forces superior to our own--you can see this played out in Alien, (1978, d. Ridley Scott), and in the movie MCASD is screening this Thursday nite at 7pm, lensed by Michael Chapman (Bridge to Terabithia) and directed by Philip Kaufman, Invasion of the Body Snatchers. If you are in San Diego, come out and see it on the big screen! Me and MCASD film curator, Neil Kendricks, will be doing the intro, holding a raffle (can you say FREE DVDs?) and, best of all, leading the post-movie Q & A, where you get to make out like you are Siskel and Ebert and join us in a discussion of the movie. Here's a peek at the trailer:

Where Don Siegel's Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) was a coded allegory for Cold War fears regarding ideological or political innoculation of the psyche, Chapman's 'Snatchers is more fitting for the pre-HIV, post-Nixon late 70s: here the invasion of the body by aliens from without involves a displacement not only of the psyche but of the body itself, with humans, men and women alike, as proxy wombs for the demon seed* of the other, the alien, the outsider. This reaches its allegorical heights with the infamous alien "birth" scene in Scott's alien, where a man, made "woman" gives "birth" before the horrified eyes of his fellow astronauts. Here's an extended cut of the scene from YouTube:

That what emerges in this instance, is a very phallus-like beastie, is one for the Lacanians and Freudians to mud-wrestle about. More important here, especially for films like Alien, and Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and, even, Demon Seed is this spectacle of self-penetration, this destruction of the psyche and body from without, that pulses through the fabric of the U.S. collective psyche in years more remembered for serial killer Ted Bundy (LA's the Hillside Strangler and kid-killer clown John Wayne Gacy, were also out and about), anti-British IRA attacks, and the Jim Jones, People's Temple mass suicide.

There's a great, short piece on 'Snatcher's by Wiley Wiggins here.

*Demon Seed (d. Donald Cammell), from 1977, positing the rape and insemination of a woman, Julie Christie, by a supercomputer, was another big screen narrative surfing this zeitgeist.

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