26 November 2007

81. being there




"being there": a 2 hour, 10 minute long comedy? a comedy with peter sellers where he plays it straight? an ending as ambiguous and loaded as our character walking on water while being discussed as a presidental candidate under an illuminati symbol while the current president quotes "life is a state of mind"?

what the fuck is going on here?

oh, it is well-made, i just don't know what to make of it. the premise starts immediately and economically: we see chance's simple everyday life, surrounded by tvs and his garden. and then the old man dies and he has to leave, and we are surprised by the run-down neighborhood and the hoodlums who almost mug him. chance stumbles, forrest gump-like, into scenarios with powerful people, without understanding any of it. the filmmakers have their craft right: they show beautiful shots of washington d.c. and the biltmore estate, they judiciously use wonderful old tv clips ("basketball jones" is particularly great), and they are somehow able to maintain a tone of the driest wit possible on a one-note premise that miraculously doesn't get old.

the movie is ambiguous in many ways, so i honestly don't know what point was trying to be made here. if i had to guess, it would be a condemnation of the continued confluence of media on our society, particularly how it relates to politics. for instance, the pall-bearers immediately bring to mind my paranoid liberal fantasies about how george w. bush was elected, via a collection of old money men who push their own agenda (in the case of the movie, this would be the illuminati [?], but in our own case it could be skull-and-bones or some other neocon collection. let's just assume cheney is involved somehow). we also see how chance's aphorisms are taken as genius when they are really open-ended, simple statements that do little more than make the listener feel smart -- or smarter than him.

moreso, though, my thoughts on this film continue to turn towards taoism. "soft is stronger than hard", and that applies to chance stumbling through his life without ambition or desire, wanting nothing (save for the occasional meal or glass of water), and ending up with everything (a mansion, a possible presidental appointment, shirley maclaine). additionally, like thoreau and other wise men, chance takes his cues about life from nature and the natural world. and the title itself, "being there", implies a childlike state that taoism espouses. like ram dass says, one must "be here now", in every moment -- like chance is -- accepting whatever comes and watching the world in wonder.

still, though: what to make of that ending?

1 Comments:

Anonymous Austin Kleon said...

I'm right there with you: I had no idea what to make of this movie.

I thought it was way too long, that it should've been a 90-minute fable (but then, I tend to think EVERYTHING should be a 90-minute fable...HA!)

I was really put off by the political stuff, and wished it'd been more oriented towards your taoist reading of it: a man who wants nothing and gets everything. That in itself is a good enough story for me.

I'm reading a book right now, STUMBLING ON HAPPINESS, that might be perfect for looking at this movie...I'll send you more thoughts when I'm finished with it.

10:43 AM  

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