Being There Screen 7 articles

Being There

1979

Being There Poster
  • Sight & Sound: Nick Pinkerton
    March 31, 2017 | May 2017 Issue (pp. 99-100)

    The film has been in the conversation of late as one of the handful of films earmarked for predicting the present era of pundits discovering wisdom in incoherence, though it plays less successfully as satire – it's a rather ham-handed one – than as a fairytale, something the much bickered-over ending seems to recognize. It's as timeless as the comfort of believing one's political foes to be stupid rather than really venal.

  • The director, Hal Ashby, has affected a restrained, understated style to match the subtlety and precision of Sellers's performance. No one seems to know what to do with the allegorical undertone of Jerzy Kosinski's script, but as a whole this 1979 film maintains a fine level of wit, sophistication, and insight.

  • While the content of Kozinski’s satire is almost bitterly incisive (no more so than when the only clear-eyed character in the film, the black housemaid, declares Chance’s ascendance into the national spotlight, despite having “rice butting between the ears,” as the ultimate proof that America is “a white man’s world”) and prescient, Ashby’s bemused direction tempers every blunt edge.

  • Enjoyable but slight, as I remembered. Once it's established that everything Chance says will be interpreted metaphorically or as a Zen koan or whatever, the film just repeats itself; it's a good joke, but I don't know that it's _that_ good, nor that incisive.

  • [The lasting power of Being There] is not its prescience or the architectural integrity of its allegory but its haunting, sorrowful unknowability. What the world is going to make of Chance is the film’s narrative arc; what Chance is going to make of the world is its unsolved enigma. He is a sad, solitary, unreachable figure—The Little Prince Who Would Be King. By the end of the movie, we know ourselves better, but not him.

  • Elegiac and yet ruefully funny, Hal Ashby's Being There is at once a profoundly philosophical fable about how we become truly human only in the face of our ineluctable mortality, as well as an incensed satire intent on skewering the mass media's unhealthy sway among the corridors of wealth and power.

  • Many have called both the book and the film a premonition of the Reagan revolution, which came to power, in part, on the strength of Reagan's ability to communicate on TV. The deathlike air of the film certainly connotes the end of something big, while the humor comments on the timeless human desire to be deceived by something that sounds good. These opposing elements give Being There an enduring complexity, although sometimes it's too bleak in its outlook to be laugh-out-loud funny.

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