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Does Collecting Make You Feel Dirty?
When I got to The Loft I was excited to see lots of people milling about in the lobby. I smiled at them and walked into the downstairs theater in search of a seat. And there was an emotional camel scene on the screen! Yes, things were running late. But after a few minutes of talking with Fredoluv, Tim, Susan and Richard, The Manchurian Candidate -- was the camel movie some sort of tie-in? -- finally got going.

I decided to teach the film this fall never having seen it, so I watched with an eye to how it might play to the young and impressionable. Strangely, I suspect. All I had heard about it going in, aside from the barest plotline, was that Frank Sinatra had supposedly done his best acting for the picture on first takes and that there were scenes where things were deliberately out of focus. I'm not sure either of those tidbits are true. I will say this: the fact that the projector kept going out focus served to enhance whatever shots may have been deliberately blurry.

The trick of the film is to make you realize that "brainwashing" is a lot more diffused -- not to mention diffuse -- than the main plot indicates. All the characters seem programmed to respond to certain cues. I especially like the scene at the end of the picture where Frank Sinatra's Major Marco and his superior interrupt their desperate search for the missing Raymond Shaw to salue the American flag during "The Star-Spangled Banner." It's clear that they can't help themselves.

The main plot reinforces American paranoia about communists while the film's details are arranged in a manner that actively subverts the anti-communist fervor of a thinly hooded McCarthyism. I kept feeling myself getting pulled in opposite directions. In this respect, The Manchurian Candidate reminded me a lot of Robert Aldrich's Kiss Me Deadly.

My highlight of the evening came after the film was done. It wasn't a very good print. I'm sure I missed several important lines. On the other hand, by staying close to Fredoluv and Tim, Susan and I were able to obtain our own little piece of The Manchurian Candidate:

The end of one of the reels had become hopelessly damaged, so the supervising Loft employee made an executive decision and snipped off a few frames for us.

Tomorrow Kim and I are slated to see Jonathan Demme's remake. One or both of us will report back afterwards. I know the anticipation must be killing you.

Mode: slathered
Muse: Vollmilch - Die Ärzte - Die Ärzte früher!

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kdotdammit From: kdotdammit Date: August 2nd, 2004 01:56 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
The thing is about The Manchurian Candidate -- I have tried to watch it at least ten times and fall asleep every single time regardless of how awake I feel when I start the movie. I really think I fall into some kind of hypnotic trance and drop out of consciousness. Reading your description, I have no doubt in my mind that the same thing would have happened to me had I gone to see it at The Loft. Hopefully I'll be able to stay awake during Demme's version. I've never fallen asleep to anything else by him, so I am hopeful.
nos4a2no9 From: nos4a2no9 Date: August 2nd, 2004 03:21 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I just watched this movie with friends on DVD the other night, and all of us are very young and impressionable. We're also university English majors (and one grad student) so I suppose we're in your target audience for the class next year. I picked up mainly on the gender/feminist aspects of the film, which I hope you would mention as part of the class. We all got a good laugh out of that, "Now go act like a housewife!" scene, which was followed by a slap on Leslie Parrish's character's rear end. Strange that was presented in conjunction with Angela Lansbury's dragon lady of a mother, who I suppose was meant to be horrifying to '60s audiences due not to her incestuous relationship with her son but because she played her role so well, working behind the scenes to advance her husband as a good wife shouild.

We laughed a lot during this movie, although I think it scared us a little, too. While The Manchurian candidate seems dated now, especially to today's young audiences who will probably chuckle at the bizarre women in the film and the badly-staged fight scene between Sinatra's character and Henry Silva's miscast "Korean". I think a post-colonial or feminist approach to the film would be extremely interesting, as the Cold War politics (McCarthisim, anti-Communisim, sleeper agents) are already fairly easy concepts for students to grasp.

I know you probably haven't seen the remake yet, but would you consider doing a close comparison to the two film's main conspiricy points: the switch from communist brainwashers to corporate pirates utilizing microchips in the brain to modify behavior?

Janet Leigh also provide a source of
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: August 2nd, 2004 05:08 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
First off, thanks for writing such a thoughtful response! (I think the end was cut off, BTW).

I'll try to do much of what you suggest. It's a course on "Literary Analysis" -- which includes analyses of film in a 'literary' way, in my book -- so I'm definitely going to emphasize the moments when the film seems furthest removed from our concerns and the ones where it seems closest. I make a big point of keeping history in mind when doing "readings."

I picked it, as you intuit, because I wanted students to be able to see the remake and then talk about the differences between them. I also wanted there to be lots of articles online about both movies -- reviews of the remake always mention the original -- so that we can consider the range of possible approaches to the subject matter.

The women are very strange. Josie Jordan is so forward and "Rosie" is outright bizarre in that between-train-cars scene.
nos4a2no9 From: nos4a2no9 Date: August 2nd, 2004 05:18 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
The women are very strange. Josie Jordan is so forward and "Rosie" is outright bizarre in that between-train-cars scene.

Do you think, as Roger Ebert hypothesizes here, that there is a deeper level of conspiracy at work reguarding the women's behavoir? That train sequence is truly strange, as you mention. I like the idea that the behavoir of the love interests in the film work as some sort of mental pre-conditioning (like Sinatra and pal saluting the flag) perhaps as a response to normative gender relationships from the 1950s and 1960s.

That class looks really interesting - I took a similiar course on film and literary analysis, although it was mainly concerned with Sci Fi/Fantasy material. What other films and books will you and the students be looking at?
From: ex_synecdoch550 Date: August 2nd, 2004 06:39 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
and one grad student

Ooh, that's me.

In addition to all this, another thing that struck me, thinking about it later, was that how readily I think all of us had figured out the plot. I didn't know much about the plot going in-- only that it involved brainwashing-- but it became apparent fairly early on that Mrs. Iselin ws involved, though, as it turned out, this was one of the film's big twists.

This made me wonder if the initial audience of the film had the same reaction, or if we are just more cynical today. It is hard for me to say, not being around in the fifties, but are audiences today de-sensitized to conspiracy theories? I'm not sure if you want to look at it from this sort of angle for your class, but I think that any shift in the reader response would be fascinating. I'm also wondering about the new film now-- the trailers make the involvement of the Mrs. Iselin analog (caveat: I haven't seen the new one) in the conspiracy pretty clear. Why is this, do you think?

I don't know-- I might just be rambling. But I do find the shift from the communist conspirators to corporate conspirators to be fascinating, as well as the fact that in the original, the plotting of the Iselins actually confirms Senator Iselin's McCarthy-style allegations.
nos4a2no9 From: nos4a2no9 Date: August 3rd, 2004 05:06 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
But I do find the shift from the communist conspirators to corporate conspirators to be fascinating

I think that's probably the real justification for the remake - it makes for such an interesting, timely point about the shift from cold-war politics to modern corporate piracy that the Manchurian concept itself seems built for revision and comparison.
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