Who were Moses and Jesus, really?
It’s no stretch to see Larry Cohen as the American director of the long 70s. Not the “best” director and certainly not the most serious. But when it comes to the hot fusion of total social dread, tectonic economic shifts, the hangover of the late 60s, and the inveterate, almost unwilled weirdness that marks the decade, no one nails it like Cohen. I mean, name another director whose insane range included Quetzalcoatl residing in the Chrysler building (Q, 1982), one of the least marketable films ever made (Bone, 1970), the tender love of murderous mutant babies (It’s Alive, 1974), a fierce blaxploitation film (Black Ceasar, 1973), a location-shot biopic of the most famous of pervy FBI chiefs (The Private Files of J. Edgar Hoover, 1977), and the deep and unabiding evil of mind-controlling no-calorie health food (The Stuff, 1985). And then there’s this one, the most explicitly “70s” of his film, haunted by the violent incoherence of the metropolis, often filmed guerilla style (for instance, inserting Andy Kaufman into a real police parade), and in which New Yorkers begin arbitrarily murdering strangers, family members, and themselves because “God told me to.” And by “God,” yes, we may very well mean a gender-bent alien creature straight out of a Satanic glam version of Jack Smith’s Flaming Creatures. This is some seriously wild stuff, whose chaotic goofiness only makes the unmistakable anxiety of an era reek that much more.
Tuesday, March 1
Stevenson 150, 8 PM