Thursday, August 11, 2005

The Manchurian Candidate

I would be well advised to not write about a movie that I watched once over a month ago. The chances are probably pretty good that I will mess up the details, take portions out of context, and misremember entire scenes.

But I've never been good about taking advice.

The movie is "The Manchurian Candidate," the 2004 version directed by Jonathan Demme, not the classic 1962 original directed by John Frankenheimer.

I keep thinking of two different pieces of this movie, pieces that are not at all essential to the plot or characters, but instead are some sly commentary about our current culture and where we may be heading.

The first is a simple shot of Denzel (I'll just go with the first name - he is that kind of famous, after all) entering a building in NYC (I think). It is an overhead shot (I think) and, completely uncommented on, as he approaches the building, he passes a soldier stationed outside. The soldier has on green fatigues and is carrying a machine gun. There is no interaction between these two, just one man passing another on the street.

But the shot spoke volumes. No mention of the Posse Comitatus Act. No one protesting the soldier's presence. He was just there.

Perhaps what has me thinking of this shot is cops randomly searching subway passengers in NYC. Or perhaps it is Rumsfeld's planned little pep rally and latest administration conflation of 9/11 and Iraq.

[Correction: There was more than one soldier on the street, and they were outside Penn Station.]

The second piece of the movie that struck me was how the television news was presented. At different points in the movie, a cable news-like program was presented, basically to hash out some of the plot points. Pretty typical in movies, really. This movie, though, presented the news across the full screen, by which I mean that you didn't see one of the characters watching the news on a TV set, you saw the broadcast on the entire frame of the movie.

In addition, the movie presented the typical cable news format, but just amplified everything enough to make it damn creepy. The colors, the graphics, the music, the pseudo-seriousness of the news anchors were tweaked just enough (they didn't have too far to go, really) to make it pretty clear that you were seeing a form of propaganda.

As I said, these are some background strokes that were memorable and eerie. I'm not going to comment on the movie as a whole, or compare it to the original, as that would be a much longer and most likely a much more tedious (for the reader) post.


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