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George Lucas’ first film coming to DPAC

Observer Scene | Wednesday, November 9, 2005

When released in 1971, George Lucas’ “THX 1138” was light-years ahead of any American film at the time. It came during a period when the old studio system of Hollywood was failing and the new generation of young, adventurous filmmakers was taking over.

Names like Scorsese, Coppola, Spielberg and Lucas were just beginning to be passed around in film circles, and it was this film – the first to come out of Francis Ford Coppola’s production company American Zoetrope – that put these new filmmakers on the map.

Directed by Lucas and produced by Coppola, “THX 1138” follows a man living in a future that has outlawed emotion, sex and even love. Robert Duvall plays the character named THX 1138, a factory worker who makes the robotic policemen that oversee the film’s futuristic society. His living partner, LUH 3417 ( Maggie McOmie), alters his drug regimen and THX 1138 begins to feel emotion.

Eventually he and LUH 3417, who fall in love, plot an escape. They suffer hardships as they fight the “Big Brother,” which is present everywhere in the guise of the mechanical policemen and cameras that patrol all levels of society. THX 1138 becomes increasingly resolved in his plan to escape throughout the film, especially when he meets society’s outcasts in a permanent hold for the people who choose not to conform to Big Brother’s standards.

The story of this film is constructed well – the script was co-written by Lucas and sound designer Walter Murch. But the visuals make this film stand out.

The design of this film is George Lucas at his best. The futuristic city is devoid of color, as are the ubiquitous white jumpsuits that the citizens wear. At times, this creates the very unusual effect of floating heads as the white uniforms blend in with the white walls of the city.

The police are mechanical but possess a human quality that is very unnerving. These robots also posses a single-mindedness that makes them the perfect law enforcement. The casting choices, which feature mostly Caucasians, compound the oneness and lack of individuality of the society presented.

“THX 1138” was highly influenced by the French New Wave directors such as Godard and Truffaut. They fascinated the aforementioned generation of American filmmakers and brought about a change in American cinema that would make the entire industry adapt to a new method of filmmaking. Changes occurred as Hollywood began to subsume this new, more artistic mode.

These changes are perhaps most visible in the rise of the auteur (a French cinematic term that means “author”) in American cinema, which is evident in films like “THX 1138,” which was both written and directed by Lucas.

“THX 1138” is an excellent film that received very little attention during its original release. It is a blessing to later generations that Lucas refused to compromise and decided to make it in the way they he wanted to make it.

This film pushed audiences to the limits, and the legacy of a few brilliant and upstart filmmakers will forever be immortalized in “THX 1138.”

“THX 1138” will be screened in the Browning Cinema at the DPAC on Thursday at 7 p.m.