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The Candidate – Cinema Studies, Reel and Unreal: Politics on Film

Thursday, September 16, 2021
Show | 10:56am
Hollywood has always been fascinated by Washington, and vice versa. Moviemakers have turned their sights on politics and elections from the very beginnings of American cinema, and continue through this day. By looking at five films from different political and cinematic eras, three fictional and two documentaries, we can explore how moviemakers both depict and try to shape the political discussion. Professor Dale Pollock will lecture on the film being screened, exploring how and why it was made, and the themes and ideas the film will present. A focused discussion will follow immediately after the screening, concluding with a question and answer session.

The Candidate

Rated PG “What do we do now?” Director Michael Ritchie and executive producer/star Robert Redford satirically explore the machinations and manipulations of media-age political campaigns in this cynical political drama. Rumpled left-wing California lawyer Bill McKay (Redford), the son of a former governor (Melvyn Douglas), is enlisted by campaign maestro Marvin Lucas (Peter Boyle) to challenge Republican incumbent Crocker Jarmon (Don Porter) for his Senate seat. McKay agrees, but only if he can say exactly what he thinks. That approach is all well and good when McKay does not seem to have a chance, but things change when his honesty unexpectedly captivates the electorate. As McKay inches up in the polls, Lucas and company start to do what it takes to win, leaving McKay to ponder the consequences of his political seduction. Working without studio interference from a script by Jeremy Larner, a speechwriter for 1968 Presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy, Ritchie enhanced the behind-the-scenes realism of Larner’s insights with a realistic, cinéma vérité approach. He orchestrated a campaign parade for “candidate” Redford that drew such a considerable unstaged audience that local politicians wanted to draft Redford for a real election. Redford’s resemblance to the telegenic Kennedys, and his character’s resonance with the future career of California governor Jerry Brown, only emphasized how close to the bone The Candidate was (and is). Released the fateful year of Richard Nixon’s reelection, the film garnered accolades, if not substantial box office; Larner won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay and thanked the “politicians of our time” for inspiration. Creating a documentary fiction about the semi-truths manufactured to market a candidate, The Candidate shrewdly exposed the effects of the media on the increasingly cynical political process, posing unanswerable questions that have become all the more pressing with every soundbite-ruled election. (allmovie) INFORMATION ON THE FULL SERIES Will call tickets may be picked up at The Cary Box Office beginning one hour prior to the movie.