Wednesday, July 15, 2015

"Self/less" is a B-movie treatment of the body-soul exchange idea (how to get young and healthy again)

Self/less”, directed by Tarsem Singh, is based on the premise that one can have his consciousness transplanted to another body, as with “Advantageous”, reviewed here July 1, and in my novel manuscript. But here the premise is used to make a B-movie, which becomes a roller coaster of popcorn entertainment with car chases and shootouts, and a rather silly ending. The film is written by David and Alex Pastor.  It’s not exactly about taking selfies.
I would love to wake up in a younger body, which could be my own at 21.  I’d love to find my scalp hair back, and even more relevant to shame, the hair on my legs.  If I woke up in someone else’s body would I have his consciousness or mine?
As the film opens, real estate billionaire Damian Hayes (Ben Kingsley), 68, basks in his gilded penthouse in Manhattan, reminding one of the way Donald Trump lives.  Soon he is explaining that he has terminal cancer and his doctor is talking about hospice. He is whisked away in a private jet to a luncheon in New Orleans, where he collapses.  He’s whisked to a mysterious facility near Tulane, where he finds himself lying next to the inert body of a 35-year-old.  He’s sent through what looks like an MRI machine, which stops his heart, and his consciousness transfers (through “shedding”) to the new body, played by Ryan Reynolds.  The new body has scalp, chest, arm and leg hair; his had been gone (maybe from chemotherapy).
The young Damian has a new name (Edward Hale), and has to live as if he were in a witness protection program.  He is told that his fictitious birth date was in 1980, making him 34.  He is supposed to take these red pills to control hallucinations, which he soon learns comes from Edward’s real life.
But he feels the impulse to investigate, from his pad in New Orleans, and soon tracks down Edward’s past family near St. Louis.  He travels there, and not to watch the Cardinals in a World Series.  There’s a widow and young daughter, to be raised.  He had been told he had never been married (as if maybe gay). Imagine the family values issues.  But the movie really doesn’t go there. Instead, he learns that “Edward” had been murdered. The effort to convince the wife (Natalie Martinez) that he is really Damian is hardly very convincing. But soon he finds there is a pretty big plot involving more spare bodies and plans for him, led by the young mad scientist played by Matthew Goode.
The Tumblr site is here
The film is distributed by Gramercy Pictures, which was an arthouse label in the 90s and now belongs to Comcast-NBC-Universal.  Focus (the usual art distributor) is also mentioned.  But Gramercy seems  a bit the analogue of CBS Files (there is an MSNBC films trademark).
I saw the film at AMC Tysons on a weekday afternoon, before a small audience, which tended to laugh at the film rather than with it.
Maybe another comparison would be the 60s classic “Seconds”. 

Most of the film was shot on location in New York and in Louisiana.

Picture: No, not New Orleans, but Tampa FL, my visit a few days ago.


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