my Movie

Movie Details

Title:   A Face in the Crowd
Director:   Elia Kazan
Year:   1957
Genre:   Drama
Times Seen:   1
Last Seen:   03.04.07

Other Movies Seen By This Director (2)
- Baby Doll
- Panic in the Streets

Notes History
Date Viewed Venue Note
03.04.07Netflix another dirty pick. To be honest I was not that hot to see this. I'm not what you'd call a huge Kazan fan... his movies, or at least the ones he seems most famous for, are just so ultra DRAMAtic. Even the ones that don't take from plays where people talk actingly to one another for two hours, everything is still so heavy and social. Mostly I consider his strengths in working with actors, which is not my favorite aspect of the movies so... I've kind of attributed it to personal taste and moved on. But for this I purposely tried to keep an open mind because a couple people really like it and consider it one of Kazan's best.

So... yeah I guess I liked it. It's one of those situations where I am constantly aware of how "good movie" this is, but it still just borders my visceral entertainment zone. The acting is (expectedly) superb, the message strong and prophetic, shot well, told well, cut well, all that stuff. But the whole movie I was just waiting for the huge long monologues to start coming in. Those virtuoso passages just waiting for acting class exercises about one's inability to love or frustration at being human... and at the very very end I sort of got a few, but for the most part I was pleasantly surprised.

It helps to have Matthau deliver those by the way. For whatever reason, his brooding quiet tone agrees with me much more than a southern-accented belle or whatever. The few times he gets more than one line at a time to say he reminds me a lot of his jaded scientist in Fail Safe. Clearly intelligent with an edge like he's aware of how above everyone he is but also with some pity because he knows he puts himself there. At the very end when someone finally gets to tell Rhodes off, I suppose what he says is sufficient but I wanted him to just sock it to him... like the verbal equivalent of a mack truck hitting a kitten. I guess it was a lot closer to that back in 1957.

So... I think the biggest surprise in the movie for me was the Vitajex success montage. I honestly didn't think Kazan could get that excessive with his imagery. It's like for a moment there he turned into Eisenstein or Godard with his cutting. It's really a pretty scary minute or so... very mocking and cynical. Actually the whole movie was very dark... surprisingly dark for me. I liked that about it, although the nihilist in me wanted Patricia Neal to go back up to him at the very end, leaving Matthau alone and the two leads stuck in a continuing downward spiral. I suppose her walking away is one glint of light for the audience to hold onto... I like to think it was studio-mandated.

The reason why I liked this movie more than I thought I would is that I expected a story that boiled down to two words: power corrupts. What I got however, was much richer. And that's because Rhodes starts out as an asshole. If he was a nice simple country guy that gets whisked (or even worse, groomed) into sudden stardom and becomes a bastard, it'd get old. But instead, the first thing we learn about him is that "he's a mean one" and instead of being a comment on power, it's a comment on, via television, human nature's willingness or even eagerness to follow.

In that respect, I think this makes a great double feature with Sweet Smell of Success. Plus Winchell appears in this film which is fun.

Speaking of... I didn't recognize him until I saw on IMDb but that's Rip Torn as Barry Mills! Crazy!

And also, I absolutely love the term "gentleman loafer" which Rhodes says very early in this movie. That's an amazing title and if I ever get business cards printed that will be my title.

So, summing up. I must admit I liked this more than I thought I would. Clearly a good movie. I still won't be running out to buy the DVD...
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