When my eldest grandchild asked me recently to name my favourite movie I nominated ‘Being There’, starring Peter Sellers. The movie consists of one slow, quiet joke. And it is profound.
I recommend the following extract from Wikipedia. Or google the you-tube.
“Being There is a 1979 American comedy-drama film directed by Hal Ashby. Sellers was nominated for Best Actor. The screenplay won the British Academy Film Award for Best Screenplay and the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Comedy Adapted from Another Medium. It was also nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Screenplay.
Chance (Peter Sellers) is a middle-aged man who lives in the townhouse of an old, wealthy man in Washington, D.C. He is simple-minded and has lived there his whole life, tending the garden. Other than gardening, his knowledge is derived entirely from what he sees on television. When his benefactor dies, Chance naively says he has no claim against the estate, and is ordered to move out. Thus he discovers the outside world for the first time.”
(Remind you of someone? I thought of George W Bush.)
“Chance wanders aimlessly. He passes by a TV shop and sees himself captured by a camera in the shop window. Entranced, he steps backward off the sidewalk and is struck by a chauffeured car owned by Ben Rand (Melvyn Douglas), an elderly business mogul. In the car is Rand’s much younger wife, Eve (Shirley MacLaine).
Eve brings Chance to their home to recover. She mishears “Chance, the gardener” as “Chauncey Gardiner.” Chance is wearing expensive tailored clothes from the 1920s and ’30s, which his benefactor had allowed him to take from the attic, and his manners are old-fashioned and courtly. When Ben Rand meets him, he takes “Chauncey” for an upper-class, highly educated businessman. Chance often misunderstands people and states the obvious, particularly about gardening, but his simple words are repeatedly misunderstood as profound, allegorical statements about life, business and the economy. Rand admires him, finding him direct, wise and insightful.
Rand is also a confidant and adviser to the President of the United States (Jack Warden), whom he introduces to “Chauncey.” The President, who is concerned about the economy, asks Chance his opinion about “temporary incentives.” Chance hears the words “stimulate growth” and following a pause goes on a short speech about the changing seasons of the garden. Chance goes on to say “there will be growth in the spring.” The President completely misinterprets this as optimistic political and economic advice. Chance, as Chauncey Gardiner, quickly rises to national public prominence. He remains an adviser to Rand, attends important dinners, meets with the Soviet ambassador and appears on a television talk show. During the show, Chance again goes into detail about the importance of gardening and what a serious gardener he is, the host and public misunderstand this to be Chance talking about running the country and being a serious President should he get the chance.
Public opinion polls start to reflect just how much his “simple brand of wisdom” resonates with the jaded American public. The President even begins to fear Chance’s popularity with the public.
Chance is present at Rand’s death and shows genuine sadness at his passing by crying. At Rand’s funeral, while the President delivers a speech, the pall-bearers hold a whispered discussion over potential replacements for the President in the next term of office. They unanimously agree on ‘Chauncey Gardiner.”’
(Remind you of someone? A figure from nightmare? Some figure – not a person – an idea, a phantasm, a nightmare figment? Never, never ever, not ever in real life could the American people choose a cretin for leader? Never a person of such surpassing shallowness and vapidity and pervading ignorance that he would make George W appear a sage by comparison? Would not the great American people choose a patriot, a person who loved her country, a person who paid her taxes? Wake me, someone, wake me please – say, in four years’ time.)