Sunday Feature-Week 1: Being There (1979)

"This is a lot like television, only you can see much further.""He's dead Chance, the old man's dead.""I understand.""On television, you look much smaller."

Tite: Being There

Tone: Dark Comedy/Social Satire

Who:

Director-Hal Ashby

Cast- Peter Sellers, Shirley Maclaine, Jack Warden

When: 1979

What: Chance (Peter Sellers), a middle aged avid gardener, has lived his entire life as a recluse in a millionaire’s estate. Never having left the estate, his only knowledge of the outside world and human socialization is what he has gathered from television. One morning Chance is informed that the millionaire “the old man” has passed away and as a result he is evicted from the estate. Chance must learn to adapt to an unfamiliar reality wherein his remote control has been rendered useless.

Why:

  • At this point in Peter Sellers’ career he had become an industry joke and his personal life was falling apart on all fronts. After roughly nine years of trying to get Being There produced, Sellers was finally able to get Lorimar pictures to greenlite the project. Sellers wanted this film to exemplify his abilities as an actor and clean up his tarnished reputation in the film world. Sellers succeeded, winning a Golden Globe and being nominated for an Oscar for Best Actor. Sellers died a year later, at age 38, from a massive heart attack. Being There was Sellers’ penultimate film and the one he wished to be remembered by.
  • Hal Ashby is one of the most underrated directors of the New Hollywood movement, direceting such marvelous films as Harold and Maude(1971), The Last Detail(1973), and Coming Home (1978). Ashby had a deep understanding of the human condition and how to portray it onscreen, a remarkably keen sense of pacing, and a passion for the language of film. This was Ashby’s last critically successful film before his sudden drug-induced decline in Hollywood, an unfortunate bi-product of the times, Being There essentially stands as the capstone of his career.
  • Rarely does Hollywood succeed in faithfully adapting novels to the screen. Adapted from Jerzy Kosinski’s novel of the same name, Being There is one of those extremely rare instances when Hollywood gets it right.
  • Being There is essentially about starting life anew, making it a perfect film to ring in the new year. Hence why it starts off the Cinematte list.

note: I was planning on linking a trailer at the end of this post, however the trailer give far to much of the film away. Be wary of spoilers lurking on Youtube.

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~ by cinematte on January 3, 2010.

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