I think my last Wednesday Review gave everyone a brain aneurism because it was so long and it didn’t get the response I’d hoped for. I’ll try to keep this one a little more condensed, though I still probably won’t get much response since this one is about an obscure movie from the 70’s and stylistic comparisons of films over the decades. I better write my next post about the baby or I may lose my readership all together. But for now…
The obscure movie in question was called Being There. It stars Peter Sellers as Chance, a sort of, Forrest Gumpish character; a know-nothing who, after a mixup after being hit by a car and because of his unreal straightforwardness and cryptic witticisms, is mistaken for a man much more intelligent than he is and ends up rubbing shoulders with powerful figures. In actuallity he’s a gardner in a house he’s lived in his entire life, some 50 plus years, but has never been outside of and everything he knows of the outside world he’s learned from TV. When the houses owner dies, he finds himself evicted not knowing anything of real life and hence the mistaken indentity hijinx ensue.
To call them hijinx may not be the right description, because the movie is so low key. It is a comedy and a satire, but it has the feel and look of a drama. This is what I actually found most interesting about the movie. I did enjoy it, in and of itself, but I found myself trying to compare it to contemporary movies of the same genre. Being There was made in 1979, at the tale end of what is considered to be the “golden age” of film by cinefiles everywhere. Movies made in the those days were paced much differently than today’s movies. They were much slower and deliberate. I was trying to think of a recent (in the last decade, say) comedy to compare Being There to, but the style was so much different than anything we’re used to in that category that I couldn’t even think of one. As I started to watch it, I thought at first I had been mistaken, believing it to be a comedy. It has kind of a somber tone, at least at the very beginning, and the humor starts out very subtle and by the end reaches a crescendo at plain old subtle. After a few minutes I adjusted enjoyed it. There were some very funny moments, but it is definitely more satirical than laugh-out-loud type stuff. Though I did laugh at out at least a couple times.
This isn’t the first time I’ve noticed the pacing differences between 1970’s movies and current ones, but I think it was more obvious since this was a comedy. When you see a movie like Francis Ford Colopla’s The Conversation which came out in 1977 you definitely can notice the difference, but that is a movie based on suspense so you almost expect it to drag things out a little bit more. But even movies that still are very popular from that era and find new audiences all the time, like the first two Godfathers or Star Wars, when you compare them to contemporary films of today from similar genres the difference is notciable. I’m not saying its good or bad, that depends on the movie as a whole, but it is definitely there. Next time you watch a movie from that era, watch it with that in mind.
Here’s the original trailer from Being There: