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    Thread: Altered States

    1. #1
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      Altered States



      I LOVE this movie, in spite of the cheesy love-conquers-all ending. I hadn't seen it since probably the mid-80s, but thought of it recently due to all my delving into... well altered states of consciousness. William Hurt's debut role (as well as Drew Barrymore's), Ken Russell's best film, plus Blair Brown nekkid (and William Hurt for those who care).

      I'll paste in one of the better reviews I've seen of it:

      Altered States is a 1980 science fiction film adaptation of a novel by the same name by playwright and screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky. It was the only novel that Chayefsky ever wrote, as well as his final film. Both the novel and the film are based on John C. Lilly's sensory deprivation research conducted in isolation tanks under the influence of psychoactive drugs like LSD.

      The film was directed by Ken Russell and starred the yummy William Hurt in his screen debut. It also starred Blair Brown (as Emily Jessup), Charles Haid and Bob Balaban. It additionally featured the film debut of Drew Barrymore. The film score was composed by classical composer John Corigliano (with Christopher Keene conducting) and was nominated for an Academy Award. The film also received an Oscar nomination for Sound, losing to The Empire Strikes Back.

      Russell claims the film was first offered to Spielberg, Kubrick, Sidney Pollack, Robert Wise, Welles, Scorsese, Fred Zimmerman, Woody Allen, Ingmar Bergman, de Palma, Bertolucci, Boorman, Tarkovsky, Irwin Kirshner, Coppola, Polanski, Dick Lester, Michael Winner, Sidney Lummet, Dick Donner, George Lucas, Roeg, Schlesinger, Truffaut, Zeffirelli, Bryan Forbes then Ken Russell.

      The film's original director was Arthur Penn, who resigned after a dispute with Chayefsky. Special effects expert John Dykstra also resigned. Chayefsky later withdrew his name from the project; film critic Janet Maslin, in her review of the film, thought it "easy to guess why":

      It's easy to guess why he and Mr. Russell didn't see eye to eye. The direction, without being mocking or campy, treats outlandish material so matter-of-factly that it often has a facetious ring. The screenplay, on the other hand, cries out to be taken seriously, as it addresses, with no particular sagacity, the death of God and the origins of man.
      Film critic Richard Corliss attributed Chayefsky's disavowal of the film to distress over "the intensity of the performances and the headlong pace at which the actors read his dialogue."

      This one has everything: sex, violence, comedy, thrills, tenderness. It's an anthology and apotheosis of American pop movies: Frankenstein, Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Nutty Professor, 2001, Alien, Love Story. It opens at fever pitch and then starts soaring—into genetic fantasy, into a precognitive dream of delirium and delight. Madness is its subject and substance, style and spirit. The film changes tone, even form, with its hero's every new mood and mutation. It expands and contracts with his mind until both almost crack. It keeps threatening to go bonkers, then makes good on its threat, and still remains as lucid as an aerialist on a high wire. It moves with the loping energy of a crafty psychopath, or of film makers gripped with the potential of blowing the moviegoer's mind out through his eyes and ears. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Altered States.
      I dig the style of filmmaking... it's in the tradition of those 60's flicks based on French New Wave or Cinema Verite, where everybody talks at the same time. Like The Graduate or The French Connection or Easy Rider. Apparently Chayefsky (who also wrote Network) got some kind of sweet contract - his dialogue had to be used WORD FOR WORD exactly as he wrote it! Damn... unheard of!! Russell got around this by using the New Wave approach of everybody talking real fast at the same time and spitting out these ridiculous pseudo-intellectual monologues while eating or drinking, garbling what was essentially technobabble (he hadn't made the transition from theater dialogue to movie dialogue successfully).

      Personally I have no problem with very stylized movies. A lot of people seem to like movies to be "realistic" (what we actually consider realistic movies is really a convention developed over the hundred years of cinema.. if people really talked or acted like they do in 'realistic' movies it would seem very strange). A visionary film like this one doesn't need to be realistic. There's just something so cool about these energetic professors sitting in dingy peeling rooms in old school buildings watching banks of monitors and EEG readouts (in the days of analogue, when they printed onto endless spools of paper).. always observing, except when Hurt goes into the isolation tanks himself to experience it.

      I love the way the movie shows the contrast... on the one hand you have scientists OBSERVING altered states of consciousness... dissecting them, watching subjects through glass, through monitors and racks of scientific equipment, but never experiencing for themselves. But the ultimate lesson is that these states of consciousness are useless experienced this way... they must be LIVED... integrated into the fabric of your everyday life, not placed under glass and observed.

      Spoiler for My interpretation/ review:


      Is it strange? You bet! But the best movies always are. Its a fever dream. It IS an altered state itself. Now get altered and watch it already!!

      It doesn't seem to be posted on YouTube in its entirety, but here's the opening scene to whet the appetite:



      Hint. Pirate Bay.
      Last edited by Darkmatters; 03-30-2010 at 10:17 AM.

    2. #2
      Member Ardent Lost's Avatar
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      I thought it was great right up until the final scene. The last couple of minutes kills the whole vibe of awesomeness the most of the rest of the movie carried, for me. A real shame.

    3. #3
      Be a man of Value. Jorge's Avatar
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      I liked the movie as well. The ending was the Cheesiest! lol

    4. #4
      Consciousness in the Void Universal Mind's Avatar
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      I think it's a pretty cool movie, but I like William Hurt's roles in Body Heat and The Big Chill a lot more. I saw Altered States a really long ass time ago, and I don't think I read any metaphorical meaning into it then. I should watch it again.
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    5. #5
      Be a man of Value. Jorge's Avatar
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      I found it especially hilarious when he...


      Spoiler for Altered States":




      Last edited by Jorge; 04-02-2010 at 04:20 AM.

    6. #6
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      John C. Lilly claims that the things depicted in that movie actually happened (turning into a prehistoric creature, etc.) It adds an interesting twist to the film.

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    7. #7
      Be a man of Value. Jorge's Avatar
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      I also have read that he would take LSD while in the isolation tank. I'm sure that had to be a piece of his "transformation" but hey just a theory.

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