The Candidate (1972)

<strong class="MovieTitle">The Candidate</strong> (1972)

(In French, On TV, December 2018) Over a sufficiently long timeline, one of the problems with the world is its tendency to evolve toward a parody of itself, becoming the thing that earlier generations tried to satirize. So it is that I finished watching The Candidate having found it a reasonably tame description of an American political campaign, only to read up on the film and find out that it had been conceived as a satirical comedy. Of course, satire is dead under the current American presidency, and so The Candidate does appear a bit staid today, dealing with a far gentler and more rational era in US politics. This, mind you, is not necessarily a problem—I’m a political junkie and I’m more receptive than most to a movie taking us through an entire senatorial campaign without resorting to huge melodramatic twists à la Primary Colors or The Ides of March. (Which is for the better, given that most post-Clinton US political thrillers seemed to have the same resolution in mind.) Robert Redford is quite good in the film, playing an idealistic candidate who progressively waters down his message in an effort to be elected. The film seems to regard this as a soul-destroying process, but I may be showing my progressivist centric technocrat inner nature when I say that this feels perfectly reasonable and perhaps even admirable. The film isn’t without its funny moments, although some minor plot threads (such as the candidate’s affair with a staffer) get lost in the mix, and I don’t quite think that the protagonist gets a good chance to show his late-campaign desire to win taking over his idealistic convictions. It’s also dated in terms of references and technology but come on: It’s a forty-six-year-old movie. As such, The Candidate has aged nicely enough. I’ll add it to my growing list of essential movies about American politics.

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