Seconds (John Frankenheimer, 1966)
What would you do if you were given a second chance to do things right in your life? This is what banker Arthur Hamilton (John Randolph) is given when he becomes the painter Tony Wilson (Rock Hudson). Having the opportunity to go back to his thirties with a different appearance since his first life was wasted. His wife (Frances Reid) and him were not close anymore and his daughter was living far away with her husband. An old friend calls him and convinces him to go to the Company and use their business. This is where his transformation takes place. Once he is Wilson, he realizes that he didn’t really is what he really wanted.
Influential on many fronts especially on films like 12 Monkeys, The Game, and Face/Off, Seconds is quite unique for its time and is very cynical about its own time. Evocations of reincarnation, hippie lifestyle, sects, and pyramidal scheme are some of the many elements that Seconds scratches. One of the goals of director John Frankenheimer was to achieve to make a Science-fiction film that would be possible like his The Manchurian Candidate. He achieves it quite well and his cinematographer, James Wong Howe, gives it a sense of distortion and an eerie effect that is unsettling. It takes the film out of the conventional movies of the 1960’s. Leading me to guess that Stanley Kubrick’s dystopic science fiction of A Clockwork Orange might have been shot with the state of mind of Seconds. Its cinematography might be the main element that makes it a cult canon.
When writing about Seconds, one must at least mention Rock Hudson’s audacious presence as Tony Wilson giving the performance of a lifetime after having been the playboys in the Douglas Sirk melodramas and in Howard Hawks’ Man’s Favorite Sport?. While keeping his quiet intensity and subtle presence. It is easy to identify yourself to his guy next door character. Even if he still is a good looking man it is easy to forget his state of Hollywood star.
While being influential and a cult film, like many films of the later category it is a lesser known film that should be more recognized for its great values of original cinematography and superb plot. As a viewer I like to be surprised and leaded to places we never obviously go with Hollywood films. This is what Seconds do, it brings it viewer into its own themes and changes our reality for a moment. A great gem that Criterion once again gave a great treatment.