KLUTE YOUR ENTHUSIASM (25)
August 25, 2017
One of 25 installments in a series of enthusiastic posts analyzing and celebrating a few of our favorite neo-noir movies from the Sixties (1964–1973).
SOYLENT GREEN | d. RICHARD FLEISCHER | 1973
Soylent Green may be notorious for its operatic moments and big reveal, but its neo-noir vision of NYC in 2022 is what makes the cult science-fiction film evergreen. The ’70s-made eco-disaster focuses on overpopulation and environmental destruction, but it’s the society built on misogyny, kleptocracy, and extreme capitalism that creates a world where only the members of the 1% thrive.
This response is too short to get into all the references to kleptocracy, but extreme capitalism appears from the moment the film begins. A peppy opening montage references transformation in heavy industry and infrastructure; it nearly bounces its way from the Industrial Revolution to the polluted, machine-driven iteration of our near future.
In Soylent Green’s world, the majority of occupants are treated as either cattle or cogs. Garbage trucks serve as riot-deterring machines, lifting protesters into their auto-bodies through use of massive scoops. Charlton Heston’s Thorn — a NYPD detective — explains that missing two days on a job means losing it to a member of the unemployed, population’s other half. Sol Roth’s (Edward G. Robinson) role as a researcher is codified as his identity; multiple descriptions refer to him as a book rather than a man, and this is the less offensive of the film’s objectified categorizations. Leigh Taylor-Young’s Shirl, often identified as Thorn’s love interest, is introduced as furniture; she is literally a part of the package for renters of the apartment she inhabits.
Being furniture is more than a job, it’s Shirl’s entire means for life and survival — yet all scenes that contain furniture confirm their dehumanized status as property. Thorn is portrayed as a hero for not hitting women, while he also takes advantage of the institutionalized power structures that affirm that furniture are there for sexual use by any man who happens to pass through specific physical space.
“They’re making our food out of people. Next thing, they’ll be breeding us like cattle for food,” Thorn cries at the end. Yes, Soylent Green references explicit cannibalism. But for everything he witnesses, Heston’s Thorn doesn’t see that it’s not the hunger, but the structure of his own society, that eats away at human decency.
KLUTE YOUR ENTHUSIASM: Series Introduction | Kio Stark on THE KILLERS | Alix Lambert on BANDE À PART (BAND OF OUTSIDERS) | Judith Zissman on ALPHAVILLE | Mark Kingwell on HARPER | Lynn Peril on BLOW-UP | Devin McKinney on SECONDS | Drew Daniel on BRANDED TO KILL | Luc Sante on POINT BLANK | Gordon Dahlquist on LE SAMOURAÏ | Alice Boone on LE CERCLE ROUGE | Brian Berger on COTTON COMES TO HARLEM | Adrienne Crewe on PERFORMANCE | David Levine on THE FRENCH CONNECTION | Dan Fox on GET CARTER | Melissa Gira Grant on KLUTE | Brandi Brown on SHAFT | Kaleb Horton on FAT CITY | Peter Doyle on THE GETAWAY | Sarah Weinman on HICKEY & BOGGS | Annie Nocenti on BADLANDS | Josh Glenn on CHARLEY VARRICK | Gary Groth on THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE | Lisa Jane Persky on THE LONG GOODBYE | Mimi Lipson on MEAN STREETS | Sherri Wasserman on SOYLENT GREEN.
MORE MOVIES at HILOBROW: KLUTE YOUR ENTHUSIASM: 25 neo-noirs of the Sixties (1964–1973) | James Parker’s BOURNE VARIATIONS series | Alix Lambert’s SÉRIE NOIRE series | Jacob Mikanowski’s SCREEN TIME series | Josh Glenn’s SHOCKING BLOCKING series | Joanne McNeil’s ALL MY STARS series | MORE: including dozens of HILO HERO items on movie directors and actors.
KLUTE YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2017): THE KILLERS | BANDE À PART (BAND OF OUTSIDERS) | ALPHAVILLE | HARPER | BLOW-UP | & 20 other neo-noir movies. #SQUADGOALS (2017 weekly): THE WILD BUNCH | BOWIE’S BAND | THE BLOOMSBURY GROUP | THE HONG KONG CAVALIERS | VI ÄR BÄST! & dozens of other squads | GROK MY ENTHUSIASM (2016 weekly): THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF LUNCH | WEEKEND | MILLION YEAR PICNIC | LA BARONNE EMILE D’ERLANGER | THE SURVIVAL SAMPLER | & dozens more one-off enthusiasms. QUIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2016): “Tainted Love” | “Metal” | “Frankie Teardrop” | “Savoir Faire” | “Broken English” | & 20 other new wave songs. CROM YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2015): DARKER THAN YOU THINK | THE SWORD IN THE STONE | OUT OF THE SILENT PLANET | THIEVES’ HOUSE | QUEEN OF THE BLACK COAST | & 20 other fantasy novels from 1934–43. KERN YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2014): ALDINE ITALIC | DATA 70 | TORONTO SUBWAY | JOHNSTON’S “HAMLET” | TODD KLONE | & 20 other typefaces. HERC YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2013): “Spoonin’ Rap” | “Rapper’s Delight” | “Rappin’ Blow” | “The Incredible Fulk” | “The Adventures of Super Rhyme” | & 20 other old-school hip-hop songs. KIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2012): Justice or vengeance? | Kirk teaches his drill thrall to kiss | “KHAAAAAN!” | “No kill I” | Kirk browbeats NOMAD | & 20 other Captain Kirk scenes. KIRB YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2011): THE ETERNALS | BLACK MAGIC | DEMON | OMAC | CAPTAIN AMERICA | & 20 other Jack Kirby panels.