Home > Movies, Reviews (Movies) > The Candidate (Ritchie, 1972)

The Candidate (Ritchie, 1972)

The Candidate is a fascinating piece of work. Viewed this week with Medium Cool — Which one poses the greater criticism of television? Medium Cool soaks in faked realism, The Candidate does the same. But they are such different pictures. In the end, Candidate ultimately forms a more electric and buzzing indictment of Communication Age politics and it does so at a predictably steep price.

Candidate revels in a backstage, “candid” approach to political procedure. It harnesses a very active camera – moving, zooming, panning. Evidenced immediately in the credit soundtrack, this isn’t meant to be a deft evaluation of Americana, it’s a mockery. McKay has his sleeves pulled up, he’s eating, he’s unbuttoned, he’s untucked, he’s incorruptible. And the picture is presented as such a slick piece of entertainment that it’s just about impossible to disagree. Here’s the really interesting part. Whether or not Candidate was aiming for it — was it? — it shows television as the most formidable political gamechanger in history. So many of the lines tailor to it — “they” cut your hair. So many scenes are Television Training Camp. There’s the self-satisfied shot where the camera pans into the viewfinder of the TV camera while McKay compromises on his crime policy. In essence, Candidate demonstrates a radically different and devolved political landscape than earlier pieces. Is McKay a Jefferson Smith of the 70’s? I think he is — thanks to the script.

This celebrated script. It stacks Politicians against Non-Politicians and has Redford migrate from the former to the latter. And how it abuses Redford! Possibly the best thing about the film is Redford’s amicability and his tangible love for filmmaking. Three years after Sundance, he is ready to be cool for the adults. But what about this script they hand him? The liberalism is so piquant that it smells like we would be better off without government. Like politics is somehow more corrupt or convoluted than anything else in the age of television. The one thing it gets right — accidentally or not? — is how the equation of celebrity and politics equals power. Towards the end, the script wallows so much in its own sagacity that it is enough to make me seasick. My biggest question is this — is the ambitious and potent critique of television incidental or not? And another, how connected are Bill and Barack?

Jefferson. Bill. Barack. America evolves, doesn’t it?


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