Tuesday, August 03, 2004

An Educational Film

Roger Ebert's review of the remake of The Manchurian Candidate.

There's a level of cynicism here that is scarier than the Red Chinese villains in John Frankenheimer's 1962 classic. It's a stretch to imagine a communist takeover of America, but the idea that corporations may be subverting the democratic process is plausible in the age of Enron.


Meryl Streep has the assignment of playing the alarming and incestuous Mrs. Shaw, a role for which Angela Lansbury won an Oscar nomination, while essentially stealing the movie. Streep wisely goes for oblique humor rather than straight-ahead villainy, making the character different and yet just as loathsome. Gossips have whispered for months that her performance is modeled on Sen. Hillary Clinton, but I dunno; Streep has mentioned Peggy Noonan, Condi Rice and Dick Cheney.


Frank Rich writes in the New York Times that the movie is "more partisan" than "Fahrenheit 9/11," but that requires a simpler and more translatable plot than the one I saw. Demme sticks his knife in everywhere, suggesting that the whole system and both parties have been compromised by the power of corporations. (For truly uninhibited parallelism in interpreting the movie, read Paul Krugman's July 20 N.Y. Times column "The Arabian Candidate.")


What we can say is that Demme has taken a story we thought we knew and, while making its outlines mostly recognizable, rotated it into another dimension of conspiracy. Are corporations really a threat to America's security? The rotten ones are. When you consider that the phony California electric crisis, with its great cost in lives and fortune, was an act of corporate terrorism, he has a point."

Yes, he does.