THERE is a very short history of films made by committed artists with political intentions. There are the famous propaganda films--Leal Riefenstahl's Olympia and Triumph of the Will, the early Soviet Union silent classics, the American, "Why We Fight" series during World War II. But films which have dealt with social process in a direct attempt to instruct or instigate change are few and mostly foreign. Think of Battle of Algiers The Confession If the films of Godard.
The summer however, American critics and audiences began to consider films in increasingly political terms. The reception of The Candidate made it seem that earlier attempts by Haskell Wexler and Emile de'Antonio had prepared U.S. critics at long last for a film which at least broached contemporary issues. Even The Trial of the Catonsville Nine a lib-rad pageant released in early June received much kinder treatment from the press due to political leanings which film critics would probably not have generally taken into consideration a few years back.
Perhaps more important pop entertainment was politicized by the entrance of blacks into Hollywood genres in some cases constituting acts every bit as political as the more highbrow whites filmed social commentary. One decent film emerged from the trashleap to become the biggest black but of the year perhaps of them all. Super Fly
In the course of the summer, I had opportunities to interview representatives of most of the mayor political releases Gregory Peck, the producer of Catonsville Nine was the first I talked with and had the least to say. He decided to back the production, out of a gut level reaction against what was happening in Vietnam if he had personal politics at all they were directed against our totalitarian cultural blandness and could not be specified particularly by the star of Marooned and The Chairman. Later talks with Jeremy Larner screenwriter of The Candidate and Ron O'Neal, the star of Super Fly did manage to reveal real intentions behind their respective huts.
A note on interview form no matter how you cut, verbatim question and answer is the only way to write one up if the subject is going to be the men of issue at hand, and not the interviewer. The manner of speech earmarked the man more than the few verifiable facts. This does not matter as much in intellectual discussions, but the principle, I think, remains the same.
About one month after The Candidate opened in Boston. I met Jeremy Larner at a small French restaurant on Boylston Street. As I had given the film an unfavorable review (which he of course disagreed with). Larher had not been particularly anxious to talk. But he did, in fact, provide amiable enough. Looking very much as you imagined Hector Bloom, the Jewish college basketball star of Larner's first novel, Drive. He said, he spoke with an engaging humor to his edgines, though the presence of a taciturn political friend, who contributed an occasional grunt or mumble and proved invisible otherwise, was slightly discomforting. The talk began over omelettes.
Q: How did you first become associated with Redford and Ritchie on The Candidate?
A: Listen, before I answer those questions, let me tell you what I disagree with about your review.
Q: OK, let's do that.
A: There are some things I agree with, but..."The filmmakers have not mentioned Vietnam in a vain attempt to reduce the chance of incipient outdatedness..."
Q: You did mention it once.
A: Right, So this is wrong. But it is not just an attempt to avoid "outdatedness," though it is a serious problem, I don't know why you would take that lightly, for the war could have changed drastically by the time the film came out. It's really not a film about Vietnam, but certainly some of the things that got us into Vietnam. And the mention of Vietnam that's there is not insignificant, where what are serious subjects for McKay...are turned into a kind of a joke and kind of offensive and puts him off against the television people a little bit.
Now, You say "in the process of winning, McKay becomes less of a statesman, but a potent show-biz votegetter;" I disagree. He was never a statesman, but he was a person, who was trying to be serious about his life and about his work, and who cared about certain issues.
Q: Where is this expressed, that he's so serious and living his life so consciously?
A: It may not be well enough expressed, but the fact that he's avoided politics up to now, and the fact that he's running a legal aid office, and his own attitude towards Lucas when Lucas first approaches him. A good part of the film is spent trying to establish this, whether successfully or not.
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