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Barbarella and Zardoz

by Critical Commons Manager

Like the shifting attitudes toward technology seen in the pre- and post-Nixon era detective series Mannix and The Rockford Files, Barbarella and Zardoz may be seen as exemplary of their respective eras in low-budget sci-fi exploitation films. In the futuristic society of Barbarella, humans have evolved to embrace an ultra-rational lifestyle that maximizes efficiency at the expense of all bodily pleasures and passions, creating an entirely harmonious utopia free of war and violence. The human beings of Earth, in other words, have become machine-like and unburdened by bodily concerns. When resisting the advances of an alien iceman, Barbarella explains that physical sex without an "exaltation transference pellet" or a harmonized "psychocardiogram" hasn't been practiced on earth for centuries because "it was proved to be distracting and a danger to maximum efficiency." Humans, in this evolved state, prefer a non-physical form of sexual satisfaction, coupled with a drug induced substitute for "ego support and self esteem." Ironically, Barbarella's uniquely gay-coded ship's computer Alfie (itself an anagram for A-life) operates as a soothing, humanoid companion, which may be seen as the antithesis of Kubrick's affectless, homicidal HAL 9000 from 2001 A Space Odyssey, which was released the same year. The U.K. production of John Boorman's Zardoz is set in the year 2293, a utopian/dystopian future that also resembles an allegory of Nixon-era America. The world of Zardoz has been divided into two classes, the "Brutals" who live outside the walls of a city called "The Vortex" and the "Eternals" who live inside, governed by a ubiquitous artificial intelligence system that has been integrated into a society where no one dies or ages. Some are driven mad by eternal life, others become apathetic, while still others have slipped into a Bourgeois torpor where they have forgotten how to achieve sexual arousal. Even with the technocratic efficiency of an all-seeing, all-knowing Artificial Intelligence agent known as the "Tabernacle" the society is unable to meet basic human needs and attempt to recapture some of their vitality from a loin clothed savage (Sean Connery) who infiltrates the city. The future in Zardoz is simultaneously repressed and savage, and the calm veneer of the privileged classes residing in The Vortex is shattered by the animalism of Connery, who brings violence and sexuality into their midst, catalyzing a radical social upheaval punctuated by mass suicide. The critique of computational intelligence is most pointed in Zardoz. The Tabernacle, which is controlled through crystals embedded in rings throughout the Vortex, appears as an optical storage and communication system, programmed for self-preservation and a belief in its own divinity. "I am the sum of all these people and all their knowledge. I am all seeing I am everywhere and nowhere." Connery's Zed is ultimately sucked into the crystal, which he manages to destroy before opening the Vortex to an army of Brutals who set about destroying the society of the Eternals in order to save it. It is with regard to sexuality that Zardoz and Barbarella are the most clearly in parallel. Connery's Zed is regarded as a novelty by the Eternals for his ability to get an erection and they seek to study his responses to various erotically charged stimuli in order to try to understand the mechanism by which physical arousal is achieved. Zed proves immune to artificial stimuli, including being exposed to soft core pornographic movies, instead displaying his attraction to the female scientist (Charlotte Rampling) who is conducting the experiment. Science and academic learning have all proved ineffectual in creating a meaningful existence for residents of the Vortex. The pursuit of perfection and knowledge of the universe proved elusive, even for the greatest scientists working with the benefit of infinite time and computational assistance from the Tabernacle. In the end, Zed's confrontation with the Tabernacle results in destruction of the AI and the end of the civilization of the Vortex.

Barbarella future sex

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Barbarella experiences hygienic future sex

from Barbarella (1968)
Creator: Roger Vadim
Distributor: Paramount Home Entertainment
Posted by Critical Commons Manager
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