Both Hugh Hart at the San Francisco Chronicle and Dennis Lim at the New York Times look over the films that have been adapted from the novel that Bay Area writer Jack Finney serialized in Colliers back in 1954: "The Body Snatchers." The novel ended on a more upbeat note than any of the films thus far â€” though no one’s seen the apparently podless "The Invasion" yet, so who’s to say. Hart focuses on Philip Kaufman‘s 1978 "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," noting that Kaufman put Don Siegel, director of the 1956 version, in a cameo role as a taxi driver, and that this latest incarnation preserves a through-line:
[Veronica] Cartwright‘s hippie mud-bath proprietor was the last human standing in 1978’s remake. She extends the "Body Snatcher" legacy in "The Invasion" by playing the first patient to alert Kidman’s psychiatrist character that something weird is happening in Washington.
Seen together, the first three films reflect shifts in cultural attitudes toward psychiatry. In each iteration a mental health professional treats the first wave of people who believe that impostors have replaced their loved ones. (This delusion is in fact a recognized condition in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, known as Capgras syndrome.)
The psychiatrist in the both the book and Siegelâ€™s film is glib and ineffectual and eventually succumbs to the pods. One of the subtler jokes in Mr. Kaufmanâ€™s film is that itâ€™s impossible to tell when exactly the self-help therapist (played by none other than Mr. Spock, Leonard Nimoy) became a pod.
At the New Yorker, Adam Gopnik dwells on that most adapted of sci-fi writers, Philip K. Dick, observing that Dick was better at ideas than eloquence: "At the end of a Dick marathon, you end up admiring every one of his conceits and not a single one of his sentences."
Thatâ€™s probably why Dickâ€™s reputation as a serious writer, like Poeâ€™s,
has always been higher in France, where the sentences arenâ€™t read as
they were written. And his paint-by-numbers prose is ideally suited for
the movies. The last monologue in â€œBlade Runnerâ€ (â€œAll those moments
will be lost in time like tears in rain. Time to dieâ€), improvised by
Rutger Hauer on the set that day, has a pathos that the book achieves
only in design, intellectually, because the movie speech is spoken by a
recognizable person, dressed up as a robot, where Dickâ€™s characters
tend to be robots dressed up as people.
And Dennis Lim, popping up over at Salon, talks to William Gibson, another sci-fi great whose work has yet to be satisfactorily brought to screen. (Ferrara and Asia Argento apologists are welcome to attempt to defend "New Rose Hotel.")
+ Same Old Aliens, but New Neuroses (NY Times)
+ New ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ remake stars Nicole Kidman (SF Chronicle)
+ Blows Against the Empire (New Yorker)
+ Now romancer (Salon)