Seconds: The Slow Death of Aspiration.
Life is a series of what ifs, there are many moments in our lives that we look back in wonderment and revel in what could have change with the difference of a few seconds. Arthur Hamilton has his life changed in seconds, a mundane trip home from work leads to what seemingly is the opportunity of a lifetime, the chance to start anew, no responsibilities, no family life to burden him, only a simple payment of $30,000 and he quite literally is a new man. Too good to be true? At it's face Seconds is a film about life's unfulfilled aspirations of life and the insecurities caused, the idea that the things we strive for in life can slowly strangle us over time and erase the person we once were is one of the greatest fears we all share. "So is this what becomes of the dreams of Youth?"
While not a complicated movie Seconds is a hard film for me to describe, much like a dream it is simple in its complexity and yet so hard to describe after the fact, whether that's because of the film's disjointed nature, the creative and at times disorienting cinematography of Hollywood legend James Wong Howe or the film's numerous commentaries, this film has left this reviewer with a beast to burden. Seconds functions as a time castle into an era by gone, the era of the business man functioning off the three cocktail lunch, a Hollywood emerging from the remains of the studio system and the era of the leading man. Yet, while the film is very much a product of its time, much of the film's message remains deeply rooted in the culture of today and much of the film's notoriety is due to the life and tragic death of its star Rock Hudson, whom much like his character of Tony Wilson was a fabrication of the Hollywood system, an idealized and carefully crafted version of a man. Since his death and the stream of info released in the years following his death the legacy of Seconds has grown beyond that of the critically lampooned to a cult following and a preservation in the Library of Congress, what is most reverent to me is what in all likelihood was a commentary about the practices of the Hollywood system, made under the very studio responsible for the end of Hollywood's studio system Paramount. When I watched this film for a second time the Brittney Spears court case was fresh in the news and the hashtag of freebrittney was splayed out across all facets of social media and even influenced an early draft of this review, if for no other reason than it made the idea of an overbearing corporate entity responsible for the image, finances and public persona of another person, all whilst maintaining a position of power through blackmail seem less science fiction and all the more horrific. The idea that Seconds most plays with is the idea that even in an ideal world where we achieve all of our dreams unhappiness can still follow. This is perhaps best exemplified by a monologue by Arthur in the closing scenes of the film "I couldn't help it, Charlie. I had to find out where I went wrong. The years I've spent trying to get all the things I was told were important - that I was supposed to want! Things! Not people... or meaning. Just things." Arthur Hamilton had the American dream even before becoming Tony Wilson and given the "freedom" that came with it, yet he felt so unfulfilled with both.
Seconds is not necessarily a great film, but it is one that I none the less recommend and even consider a must watch for fans of horror and sci-fi, it is in the opinion of this reviewer one of those rare films were everyone can come out with their own interpretation. It is currently streaming on Paramount plus, however I recommend you track down a copy of the criterion release. If you have any film suggestions or wish to discuss the film please feel free to leave a comment or reach out to me on twitter. For the sake of my own sanity I will likely pick something less daunting and uplifting for my next review.