Given how much politics and the media have changed since the late 1950s, a satire from back then might be expected to be of artistic merit but unlikely to have much resonance today. Yet the satirical bite of A Face in the Crowd is still highly applicable today, from the way media titans try to influence politics right down to a throwaway comment about dodgy product placement that could easily apply to Twitter.
Not only has the plot, about a drunk traveller who thanks to his musical ability becomes a media star with political pulling power, aged well, so too has the acting, directing and filming. The details in the background of many scenes also induce frequent use of pause to let all the clever little touches sink in.
The film was not much of a success on release but has slowly grown in appreciation since. It should be a classic for political and media junkies.
If you’ve not watched it yet, do so soon.
It’s brilliant – and especially watch out for Walter Matthau’s role, which he places to perfection. Whoever organised the scene which, in pre-CGI days, had 380 dogs apparently running free also deserves organisational acclaim.
One tip if you get the film on DVD: don’t read the blurb on the back. It summarises the whole story, including detailing the key plot twist. Best leave reading it until after you’ve watched the film for the first time. It’s still enjoyable after you know the plot, but first time round there’s extra tension to savour thanks to your ignorance.
Here’s the trailer for the A Face in the Crowd:
If you like this, you might also be interested in:
- An African Election: a great film
- The Best Man: Gore Vidal’s film about a US Presidential selection contest
- King’s Game: a great Danish political thriller
- Sidney Lumet’s Power: a film worth watching about political campaigning
- State of the Union: Frank Capra’s 1948 political satire
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