18 November 2007

Advise and Consent (1962)

This Henry Fonda/Washington insider film is amazing, from the framing of the architecture (one of the first shots focuses on the 'In god we trust' inscription in the senate chamber while including in the bottom of the frame a somewhat rancorous debate spurred on by hovering press) to the sugary-sweet construction of the suburban home one senator inhabits, one that is revealed to be both very real and an utter fa├žade. What's great about the film, if you (like me) know nothing about it before watching it, is that the plot is a sleeper plot. It starts out very slowly and vanilla but then grows into something utterly other than that. And the ending is brutal.

From our jaded perspective at the beginning of the 21st century, it starts with the fervor over the nomination the President has made for his Chief of Staff. In fact, the first scenes are very like the short-lived show K Street, with a senator getting the news of the nomination by looking at the morning headline, rushing over to a colleague's hotel room, where he finds him already on the phone with the president protesting the choice.

The rest of the film is about the senate committee hearings vetting the nominee. Wow. Sounds like the action film of the century, no? No. But it's fascinating in the way it exposes the workings of politics, the problem with idealists, the legacy of WWII, the various subcultures (the unmarried hostess of Washington poker games and gala parties; the gay New York club/bohemian culture), gender relations, and the way in which before the penetration of the media into the minutiae of every public figure's life, these people could walk around Washington, have meetings in the open, discuss issues--all without a gaggle of reporters everywhere they went. The unfolding of the plot moves it from political sparring almost to the point of political thriller.


1 comment:

mtg said...

it's also a very good book. and has a very bad sequel. but you should read the book.