Charlie Bertsch (cbertsch) wrote,
Charlie Bertsch

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Blueprint for the Present

Kim and I just finished watching Hal Asby's 1979 film Being There. I don't think I'd ever seen the whole picture before. She had only seen it when it was in theaters as a teenager, a markedly different time in her life. Anyway, we both enjoyed the pacing, not to mention that peculiar dispassion that characterizes a number of excellent films from the late 1970s and early 1980s. There were several moments, for example, when I thought of Diva.

Like the South Park movie, Being There signifies a lot differently in a post-9/11, post-Iraq War context. I kept thinking that it must have been a sly allegory in its day, making dark fun of Ronald Reagan's ascendancy. Now, though, it screams out "George W. Bush." Anyone who wants to understand why so many people find Bush's leadership persona comforting should watch Being There for its political message.

There's also a scene where the President is being briefed by representatives from the FBI and CIA in the Oval Office. The lack of communication and mutual respect between them is palpable. For me, the scene played like foreshadowing of the 9/11 commission's report.

I should add, in closing, that I don't mean these comments as a put-down. Our current President does seem to have a real gift for mimicry. He's no Ronald Reagan, surely, but still better at projecting simplicity than any of his political rivals. The smartest kids in school are rarely popular.

I speak from experience here. After years of junior-high and high-school misery in which my intellect was my undoing, I went to Germany as an exchange student. And I didn't speak any German when I got there. Not surprisingly, my first few months of school saw me attain a popularity that I could never have approached if I had had something substantive to say. I got to spend a few months as Chauncey Gardner. It was wonderful.

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