Sunday, August 01, 2004

Zacharek on The Manchurian Candidate

Stephanie Zacharek, Salon's movie critic, defining herself as a "left patriot" slams Jonathon Demme's remake of The Manchurian Candidate.

Politically speaking, we live in a dangerous world, one in which simplistic slogans have taken the place of nuance, in which thought is discouraged and meek acceptance of any evidence placed before us is rewarded. That explains how we get toothless, gutless, one-note political movies like Jonathan Demme's "The Manchurian Candidate," a picture that purports to have a galvanizing, liberal-minded theme (big business is taking over our country and our lives) but is really just ploddingly pedestrian.

Zacharek praises the original and has something interesting to say about one of FDR's Four Freedoms.

a picture that's sometimes spoken of as if it were just an entertaining anti-McCarthyist relic or a sci-fi-tinged paranoia fantasy. Frankenheimer's "Manchurian Candidate" is a claustrophobic, obsessively controlled meditation on what it means to love your country, and how a certain kind of fear is a necessary component of that love. "Freedom from fear" was one of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's well-intentioned dreams for Americans, but it was a misguided one: Truly loving your country means fearing for its future, every day and every night, through peacetime as well as war, through moderate administrations as well as radical ones, through quiet times as well as eras clouded by terrorist threats.

She says the basic premise of the remake is mistaken:

One major problem with "The Manchurian Candidate" is that Demme seems to think that in 2004 he can swap a big corporation for the evil Communist foes of the late '50s and early '60s and still preserve the flavor and essential meaning of the original picture. He can't, simply because the first "Manchurian Candidate" isn't about anything as simple as the dangers of anti-Communism: It's a tone poem to democratic ideals, while Demme's movie is just a conventional thriller with a leaden message.

And unlike its predecessor, this new movie is almost completely humorless.

So, the remake is not worth seeing, but by all means, rent the original and, if you're a movie buff pay attention to Stephanie Zacharek. (Check out Rotten Tomatoes on SZ here.)

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