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Archive for November 13th, 2012

by Sam Juliano

“It’s for sure a white man’s world in America. Look here: I raised that boy since he was the size of a piss-aint. And I’ll say right now, he never learned to read and write. No sir. Had no brains at all. Was stuffed with rice pudding between th’ ears. Shortchanged by the Lord, and dumb as a jackass. Look at him now! Yes sir, all you’ve gotta be is white in America to get whatever you want.”

It’s a one-joke movie sustained by a vulnerable premise. Yet Hal Ashby’s Being There against all odds employs amazing restraint and subtlety to pull off what could have been a tiresome exercise in satirical overkill. Aided by acting icon Peter Sellers playing against type as a mentally retarded gardener who is forced to leave the protection of a Washington town house, where he was employed by a wealthy patriarch referred to by the maid as “the old man,” Being There is pretty much unlike any film released before or since.  Scripted by Jerzy Kosinski, the scathing satire takes aims at media obsession, how television shapes the public mind, and how frankness and the desire to please can lead to misrepresentation of staggering proportions. Sheltered since childhood, and exposed to endless hours of vapid staring at the boob tube, “Chance”, who speaks with a deadpan delivery is seen as a profound sage and philosopher by a media crazed society who read his simpleton pontifications with metaphorical glee. Kosinski continues to up the ante throughout the picture to the point where the final revelation, though utterly preposterous, shows the depth of the conceit in a world short-sighted by mechanized reactions that never leave the box of acceptability. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(UK 1978 477m) DVD1/2

Roll Along Prairie Moon

p  Kenith Trodd  d  Piers Haggard  w  Dennis Potter  ph  Ken Westbury  ed  David Martin  ch  Tudor Davies  art  Tim Harvey

Bob Hoskins (Arthur Parker), Cheryl Campbell (Eileen Everson), Gemma Craven (Joan Parker), Dave King (Police inspector), Kenneth Colley (Accordion man), Hywel Bennett (Tom), Rosemary Martin (Marjorie), Freddie Jones (Mr Warner), Philip Jackson (Dave), Ronald Fraser (Maj.Archibald Paxville), Nigel Havers (Conrad Baker), Roger Sloman, Bill Dean, Peter Bowles,

In 1981 Hollywood adapted Dennis Potter’s seminal TV series for the screen, and the kindest thing one can say about it was that it was a complete failure (as the later film version of his The Singing Detective would prove to an even greater extent).  Potter, as David Thomson observed, “was television.”  His genius was made for television, where his fantastical nostalgia for his Forest of Dean childhood and the sounds of England in the decade either side of the war could come to life.  Pennies from Heaven was to prove the turning point in his career, a phantasmagorical piece about everything and nothing, which lit up TV sets across the land in the late seventies.

Arthur Parker is a sheet music salesman in mid-thirties Britain who splits his time up between driving along the country lanes of the west country trying to sell his wares to music shopkeepers and trying to get any sort of sexual favours out of his frigid, uppity wife, Joan.  One day he meets a young schoolma’am, Eileen, and falls in love.  He gets her pregnant and all sorts of trouble results, during which time he loses track of her.  He persuades his wife to put up the money for him to run his dream gramophone record shop, but it is doomed from the outset, until one day, when having a quick drink at the pub round the corner, he spies Eileen, who has been reduced to prostitution.  He takes her back to the record shop… (more…)

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