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Being There (Deluxe Edition)
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Being There: Deluxe Edition (DVD)
Being There author Jerzy Kosinski got a telegram from the books lead character Chance the Gardener: "Available in my garden or outside of it." Kosinski dialed the accompanying phone number and Peter Sellers answered. The result was Sellers indelible performance (scoring National Board of Review and Golden Globe Best Actor Awards and an Academy Award nomination*) in this modern comedy classic. Isolated all his life in a Washington, DC, townhouse, Chance knows only what hes seen on TV. Cast into the world, he stumbles into the world of power brokers (including Melvyn Douglas in his second Oscar-winning* role) eager for "sage wisdom." Youll like to watch.]]>
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Top Customer Reviews
It's a slow starter. First time I saw it, I remember being somewhat puzzled by the opening, where Chance is revealed as a very retarded middle-aged man, trained as a gardener, who apparantly has reached his full--and extremely limited--potential. He loses his livelihood and his sheltered place to live when "the old man"--his mysterious benefactor--dies, and the lawyers in charge of the estate evict him.
My first chuckle came soon after, when he tried using his TV remote on a mugger, trying to change the experience into something more pleasant; it wasn't until this point in the film that things began to make sense to me.
Throughout the rest of the movie, scene after scene shows 'Chauncy Gardener' as a complete misfit--and highlights how we human beings, in all our frailty, create ourselves and our world through what we decide to believe. When Chancy speaks, his words are mysterious because they are short and puzzling--when those around him try to make sense of them, they take what he says as metaphors, and read wildly profound meanings in his words.
(This leads to Jerzy Kosinski's purpose for writing the novel, to highlight the foolish way people blindly swallow whatever tripe the media--and our politicians--serve up. IMO director Hal Ashby caught Jerzy's intention with this movie even better than the book did.)
At the same time that people read wisdom into his simple words, Chauncy is fully present and honest in the moment, and the other characters--to whom this is foreign--treasure that, even while they completely miss that Chance is totally clueless as to what's really going on (with one notable exception).
The irony is that those people closest to Chauncy are led by the meanings they insert to personal growth and transformation--even, in a performance that won Melvyn Douglas a well-deserved Oscar, acceptance of approaching death, as just another season in the eternal cycle of life.
Other reviews I've read on Amazon villify the walking-on-water scene, at the end of the movie; I believe they completely miss the point.
Chance has, by chance, walked out on a stone quay in the lake, and doesn't even know that he should be drowning. He slowly bends over, inserting his umbrella into the water, and looks at it with some puzzlement; he is once again demonstrating that his total innocence is protected--and he gives the audience the experience that the characters in the movie have, namely, to read into this enigma of a film whatever meaning they choose to see.
The movie tells the story of a half-retarded gardener, Chance, whom one supposes is the illegitimate son of a prominent business man in Washington, D. C. This occurs in 1979, when the Carter Administration was in its last stages of faded glory. Chance, played by Peter Sellers, is left homeless when the old man dies. He then wanders the streets of the big city in search of his new life. Whatever he has learned has come from watching TV and he uses his remote control to change channels. While roaming the streets of Washington, Chance even tries his clicker in real life situations, which is very funny.
Chance then stumbles upon one of the main power brokers in D. C., a gravely-ill Ben Rand. He is played by Melvyn Douglas who won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in this portrayal. Rand's wife Eve, played by Shirley MacLane, falls for Chance and a tawdry affair (on her side) ensues. Later on, Chance becomes a media sensation, of sorts, and appears on late-night TV to present his simplistic views. They're all couched in terms of keeping a garden prosperous which rings a responsive chord with all concerned. Almost everyone takes Chance for a modern day genius when he really is just the opposite. Various private and government security agencies do research on Chance's background and can find nothing. He wears expensive clothes and underwear, dating from the 1930's, that apparently are hand-me-downs from the old man. It's as if Chance suddenly dropped out of the sky, which he practically has.
At Mr. Rand's funeral, the surviving power brokers talk of making Chance the next U. S. President. The closing scene shows Chance stepping out onto a lake appearing to walk on water. Maybe this is to serve as final proof that he deserves the #1 job? As far as I know, no one has ever explained the significance of the scene which is as it should be. As with the best art, it's up to the viewer to decide its meaning.
To me the movie shows the power of television and other forms of mass media in shaping the public mind. Taken to the extreme, a total idiot might be foisted off on the public to hold the highest political office if only he has the right handlers and avoids any whiff of scandal. The biting sarcasm and irony of "Being There" would not appeal to everyone's taste but most thinking adults should be captivated by the story and by Sellers' amazing performance.
Before buying the DVD, I tried to find out either on websites or on the outside of the package, if the hilarious out-takes appear on this recording. These were superimposed over the closing credits in the original version shown in theaters but often do not appear when the film is shown on TV. To my relief, the out-takes are there are and just as hilarious as I remember them.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
word is a pearl.Read more
A worthy addition to my Blu-ray collection.
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