The Bedroom Window (1987, Directed by Curtis Hanson) English 6

Starring Steve Guttenberg, Elizabeth McGovern, Isabelle Hupert, Paul Shenar, Brad Greenquist

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(6-Good Film)

Far-fetched. Stylish. Gripping.

      Cops are generally useless in movies like this one. If you have a thriller and the main character isn’t a cop, then most likely the cops are going to be completely unhelpful in the film. They’ll probably accuse the protagonist of something he didn’t do or arrive at the scene too late or get killed by the bad guy despite years of training while the film’s hero (an average male) is able to defeat that same bad guy. The Bedroom Window takes this cliché to an infuriating extent.

Terry Lambert (Guttenberg) leaves an office party early one night to begin an affair with his boss’ wife, Sylvia (Huppert). As their night winds down, Terry steps out of the room for a minute and Sylvia gazes out the window. At that moment, she witnesses the assault and attempted murder of a young woman, Denise (McGovern), by a pale, red-headed figure who then runs off. Not wanting to speak with police and risk having to testify in court where her husband would find out about the affair, Sylvia parts and resolutely decides not to speak of what she witnessed, content enough that the woman she saw was spared. Days later though, another woman is raped and murdered in similar circumstances to the attempt she witnessed. Terry, feeling a sense of civic responsibility, goes to the police and pretends that he witnessed the crime, feeding them information that Sylvia (who agrees with the plan) gives him. Lying to the police is not a great idea, but the way Terry’s life spirals out of control, as a result, is extreme and a little hard to believe. The first problem comes when Terry’s asked to look at a police lineup and pick out the assailant, where he meets Denise. The film, interestingly, loses its way later on, just when it starts to resemble other thrillers we’ve seen before, specifically the classic Hitchcock pictures. Hitchcock loved thrusting ordinary men into extraordinary situations, and the way Terry goes from key witness to lead suspect is very reminiscent of a famous scene in North by Northwest. It’s not that I have an issue with wearing the Hitchcock influence so conspicuously. A number of excellent films have done that: Charade, Blow-Out, Ghost Writer. And Hitchcock, also, wasn’t always interested in perfectly logical plotlines. My problem is that in The Bedroom Window, the rewards don’t always outweigh the frustration caused by maddening character decisions. Doing my best not to spoil anything, there’s one moment where Terry is left holding a freshly stabbed body and flees as the cops approach despite not having any weapon on him. If he had just waited, couldn’t he have just told the police, “how could I have stabbed this person if I don’t have a weapon?” As I said, logic is not paramount.

Aside from the frustration I felt watching the incompetent police in The Bedroom Window, and the silliness of some of its contrivances, the film is a perfectly serviceable thriller. It’s very good at times and its trio of leads (Steve Guttenberg, Isabelle Hupert, Elizabeth McGovern) as odd as it seems on paper, is the one atypical touch of an otherwise familiar thriller.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(777)

 

The Princess and the Frog (2009, Directed by Ron Clements and John Musker) English 8

Voices of Anika Noni Rose, Bruno Campos, Keith David, Jim Cummings, Jennifer Lewis, John Goodman, Michael Leon Wooley, Oprah Winfrey, Terrence Howard

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(8-Exceptional Film)

Lovely. Old-fashioned. Underappreciated.

       Traditional animation is a thing of the past for Walt Disney Animation Studios. The lovely, hand-drawn, two-dimensional work that made Disney famous (Snow White, Pinocchio, Bambi, Cinderella) has given way to three-dimensional computer animation, first achieved by Pixar (Toy Story), now taken up by just about every American animation studio including Disney itself. Ten years ago, around Christmas, saw the last time Disney released a big-budget 2-D animated flick, The Princess and the Frog, with the more modest release of Winnie the Pooh following 2 years later. Neither film proved a hit financially, though both were critically acclaimed. In the meantime, the computer-animated Disney films Tangled (2010), Wreck-it-Ralph (2012), Frozen (2013), etc., each made at least $450 million worldwide, with Frozen going over a billion on its way to becoming the second-highest-grossing animated film of all-time (not adjusted for inflation). Does this demonstrate that people aren’t drawn to 2-D animation anymore? Has 2-D animation become like black-and-white photography? I don’t think so, though it’s hard to prove. I know it’s different cultures and demographics, but anime is more popular than ever. Your Name made over $350 million worldwide just 3 years ago. And I’ve never heard a kid complain about the animation of Snow White or Pinocchio or The Lion King the way most kids will complain if you try to get them to watch black-and-white classics. So traditional animation doesn’t appear to be “antiquated” in the same way as black-and-white filming.  It’s difficult to put my finger on just what did hold The Princess and the Frog back from becoming the global hit most other Disney princess movies are and I suspect the easy answers aren’t any good. For one thing, traditional animation was floundering for years before The Princess and the Frog. Atlantis, Treasure Planet, Brother Bear, and Home on the Range had varying levels of success but I think it’s safe to say that each of them was disappointing in some way (either commercially or critically). Maybe it’s a case of guilt by association. The Princess and the Frog looks like those movies. Tangled is a huge success. Let’s stop making movies that look like the former and emulate the latter. Whatever the case, it’s a shame that The Princess and the Frog isn’t more appreciated or even seen, because it’s quite a film. It’s not on the level of Disney’s very best but I’d place it on that very next tier which is still pretty special.

The film begins with a quick glimpse at the modest but happy childhood of heroine, Tatiana (voiced by Rose), and then we flash forward many years to see her as a hard-working adult in 1920’s New Orleans trying to save up enough money to own a restaurant. Tatiana is black, making her the first black Disney princess (the only one to date), so from the very first minute, before we know if the film is any good, we know it’s important, and we hope that it’s good and worthy. I say Tatiana is a good role model for anyone watching. She doesn’t have time for much fun, as she sings in the film’s best song “Almost There,” but she’s not a shrew either. Then there is Prince Naveen (voiced by Campos), a cad, recently cut off from his parent’s money. He arrives in New Orleans with two choices: get a job or marry someone rich. His rogue heart is set on marrying someone rich. It’s noteworthy to me, and it’s one of my few quibbles with the movie, that Naveen is ethnically ambiguous, which is fine, but I really would have preferred a black prince. There’s some good to be found in portraying love between a mixed couple, certainly, but there are so few positive depictions of black males in the media in general that I believe an opportunity was missed. Anyways, Naveen gets mixed up with a local voodoo practitioner named Dr. Facilier (voiced by Keith David and it’s a great voice as anyone who’s seen Gargoyles will remember) and ends up a frog. If he doesn’t kiss a princess by a specific time, he’ll remain a frog for the rest of his life. Finding Tatiana at a costume party and mistaking her for a princess thanks to her costume, he convinces her to kiss him, but she winds up a frog as well. The two travel across the bayou looking for Madame Odie (voiced by Lewis), who might be there only chance at changing back.

As the first attempt by Disney to feature black characters in the lead, The Princess and the Frog is open to intense scrutiny. Maybe it suffered a bit from that, but most of what I’ve heard in the form of criticism is nonsense. I recall Paul Mooney complaining that Tatiana spends most of the film’s runtime as a frog. I say who cares, though that’s not much of a counter-argument. Also, there were questions about the Disney princess formula running out of steam. Perhaps The Princess and the Frog is too traditional. It’s classic formula through and through: princess, prince, music, villain, colorful side characters, animals. I love the formula and don’t think the formula will ever truly die. Tangled came out a year later and resurrected it while Frozen put to rest the idea of stopping Disney princess films for good. I don’t know why but The Princess and the Frog failed to surprise people and somehow Tangled and Frozen gave the impression of something completely new, despite all following that same formula. I happen to think The Princess and the Frog is better than Frozen while Tangled is the best of the three. The Princess and the Frog is one of the most beautifully animated films Disney’s ever produced. It has a cast full of great characters including a standout villain, great music by Randy Newman, and a fun story to get you from the opening credits to happily-ever-after. I suppose it will just have to settle for being underrated.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(776)

Joker (2019, Directed by Todd Phillips) English 7

Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Brian Tyree Henry, Marc Maron, Brett Cullen, Frances Conroy

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(7-Very Good Film)

Memorable. Gripping. Derivative.

The world can seem pretty dark when you’re depressed. No film off the top of my head paints a more vivid picture of this than DC’s newest flick, Joker, directed by Todd Phillips, perhaps a surprising choice after a couple decades worth of comedies (The Hangover trilogy, Old School, Starsky and Hutch), and starring Joaquin Phoenix, following in the footsteps of a couple iconic film Jokers (Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger) and one lousy one (Jared Leto). This Joker is a film in close-up. Even when the camera pulls back, the focus remains, the cast, the plot, the tone all revolve around its titular “hero,” here named Arthur Fleck. It’s his world. That may seem like an odd thing to say about a character struggling as profoundly as Fleck is over the course of this movie, but we see Gotham as he sees it. He’s an unreliable narrator. The extent of how much of what we’re seeing is influenced by Fleck’s mental state is, I believe, debatable, but, in any case, the Gotham we see is a hellish landscape populated by powerful bullies and hostile bottom-feeders. Fleck just wants to bring laughter into the world.

The movie kicks off: 1981, Gotham City. Living with his mother and struggling through a dead-end job as some sort of clown-for-hire, Fleck kills a group of yuppie jerks on the subway one evening. It’s a downward spiral from there with fate offering one blow after another to make Fleck break down. The list of his life struggles throughout the film would seem over-the-top, maybe melodramatic if the tone wasn’t so consistently grim. He loses his job, has the funding for his medical treatment cut, gets beat up a couple of times, etc. The most interesting part of Joker is its take on Gotham. It’s a city cut-off from the rest of the world. I don’t recall any mention of life beyond its city limits. Where did everyone else go? It’s like the setting of This is the End, where most people have gone off and those left are expected to rot. It’s also a world without superheroes. There’s no Batman, no Superman, nor anyone else from DC’s roster of supers. There don’t seem to be any blue-collar heroes either or average men looking out for their peers. Thomas Wayne, usually portrayed as a champion of lost causes, is played here by Brett Cullen as another big-money politician. Fleck idolizes late-night host Murray Franklin (De Niro) but that plays out in predictable yet satisfying fashion. Ultimately, Fleck’s gradually building Joker persona makes sense (perhaps this is what some object to) and he becomes a wake-up call to a large portion of Gotham’s citizens (reminding me of the “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore scene in Network).

Films like these, where the protagonist descends into madness are rarely made and difficult to watch. If done right, they can be fascinating but can hardly be considered fun experiences. I would argue that Joker is done right (Phoenix is mesmerizing in the role), though it’s not easy to remember a mainstream movie this polarizing in recent years. Is it irresponsible? Is it validating angry loners? I don’t buy those indictments in general. I don’t believe films are responsible for social ills the way that some do, so I feel no need to defend Joker on that level. It’s a good film, a very good film, not a great film. It has too many endings for one thing (I prefer a strong abrupt finish to letting a film like this peter out with several long sequences). It’s also too reminiscent of Scorsese’s classics Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy without deriving any value from those influences. Some argue that it’s a breakthrough comic book film. I don’t give it that much credit. Did it change the rules of comic book adaptations or surprise us with the direction it went in? No. Spiderman 2, The Dark Night Trilogy, Unbreakable. Those were the game-changers.  Joker’s simply better than your average.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(755)

 

 

The Three Musketeers (1973, Directed by Richard Lester) English 8

Starring Michael York, Charlton Heston, Raquel Welch, Oliver Reed, Richard Chamberlain, Christopher Lee, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Faye Dunaway, Frank Finlay, Geraldine Chaplin, Roy Kinnear, Simon Ward

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(8-Exceptional Film)

Exuberant. Droll. Arresting.

All for one, and one for all. You’re familiar with this mantra, no doubt, whether you’ve read Alexandre Dumas’ classic 19th-century novel, The Three Musketeers, or not. You’ve heard it an endless amount of times, referenced in other works, or perhaps you’ve seen any number of films based on or influenced by said novel. Apparently, there are close to fifty film adaptations, and though I’ve only seen five, I’m willing to claim this, Richard Lester’s 1973 version, is the best of them. It would be tough to beat and it’s certainly the best of the ones I’ve seen, though the George Sidney-directed, Gene Kelly-led old Hollywood version is fantastic fun.

The Three Musketeers, like many 19th-century novels, is fairly long (around 700 pages ), and so, any film adaptation is going to have to make do with a fraction of the plot and story development of its source material. It’s for this reason that I would welcome a mini-series adaptation (apologies if it exists already, I’ve never seen it). Director, Richard Lester, best known to this day for directing the spirited Beatles’ flick, A Hard Day’s Night, teamed up with writer, George MacDonald Fraser, best known for his series of Flashman books, and together- I’m not sure whose decision it was, but it proves wise-their Three Musketeers basically cuts away all of Dumas’ subplots. Here, beginning like the novel and all adaptations, young, provincial Frenchman, D’artagnan (York), is ready to leave the nest and, after his farewells with his parents, travels to bustling Paris where he hopes to make it as a member of the King’s guard, a musketeer. Upon arrival, his unrefined country ways rub several people the wrong way and he, confident young man that he is, accepts three duels on his first day, each with a musketeer; one with the stoic Athos (Reed), another with the extravagant Porthos (Finlay), and a final one with the devout Aramis (Chamberlain). Before he gets a chance to fight any of the three, however, an encounter with henchmen working for the devious Cardinal Richelieu (Heston) sees him teaming up with them instead. Later on and now friends, D’Artagnan, Athos, Porthos, and Aramis attempt to thwart one of the Cardinal’s plots by sneaking into England and recovering jewels given by Queen Anne of Austria (Chaplin) to her lover, the Duke of Buckingham (Ward). Faye Dunaway and Raquel Welch play love interests with Dunaway as a femme fatale of sorts, Milady de Winter, and Welch as a spotty but beautiful dressmaker, Constance.

There’s a sequel released just one year later (1974) that I haven’t seen and I can only assume covers more of Dumas’ epic saga. If so, I like that approach. The Three Musketeers warrants two films. At the same time, the clandestine mission to recover the Queen’s jewels has always been my favorite chapter in Dumas’ serial and makes for a fine standalone film and what a spectacular film Lester’s made. It’s marvelous to look at and a witty, almost irreverent take on the swashbuckler tale. Each frame is elaborately designed and each scene offers some surprising, humorous visual detail. I love the swashbuckling adventure stories of old. They’re close to extinct nowadays and that’s a shame because films like Captain Blood, Adventures of Robin Hood, The Mark of Zorro, or this one are fun, attractive, romantic, and exciting, while a great deal of modern action flicks are flat and boring. The one criticism I have of this Three Musketeers is that it’s less concerned with the characters’ and their development than other iterations and the three musketeers, in particular, are short-changed a bit. Only Oliver Reed as Athos makes any real impression thanks to his charisma and physical presence. I’m going to give the filmmakers the benefit of the doubt though and imagine that the characters will develop more in the second part. To be continued…

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(747)

R.I.P.D (2013, Directed by Robert Schwentke) English 4

Starring Ryan Reynolds, Jeff Bridges, Kevin Bacon, Stéphanie Szostak, Mary-Louise Parker, James Hong, Mike O’Malley

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(4-Bad Film)

Shoddy. Unoriginal. Dumb.

Some bad films reveal themselves on reflection. I made it through Tom Cruise’s The Mummy reboot thinking it was okay, and only later did I determine that no, it was not okay. It was quite bad. For me, there are a number of bad films in this category-X-Men: Apocalypse seems to grow worse in my memory with each passing year-but then you have films that are just immediately bad. The first frames scream out, “Get ready. You’re in for a trainwreck.” R.I.P.D is one such film. Actually, the first couple of minutes are so bad that they lowered my expectations to the point that the subsequent 90 minutes or so slightly exceeded them. It’s in these opening minutes that we are introduced (through a pointless framing device) to “deados,” bloated, repulsive monsters conjured up with the worst CGI money can buy ($140 million somehow, if Wikipedia can be believed) and the main antagonists of R.I.P.D. It’s difficult to overcome poor special effects (not to be confused with dated effects), and it would take a far more original premise than R.I.P.D offers to do it.

Nick Walker (Reynolds) is a hardworking Boston cop, blissfully in love with his wife, Julia (Szostak), but he’s recently stumbled into an easy payday with his partner, Bobby (Bacon). You know, an under-the-table kind of payday-the kind that gets you investigated by internal affairs-in the form of stolen gold. When Nick’s conscience wins out and he vows to return the loot, Bobby kills him, and Nick ends up lending his soul to the Rest in Peace Department for a chance at returning to Earth and wrapping up unfinished business. He’s partnered with a wily veteran from the old west, Roycephus “Roy” Pulsipher (Bridges), as they hunt down the dangerous deados I mentioned earlier.

R.I.P.D reeks of rotten ideas left over from the Men in Black franchise. A clandestine agency charged with saving the world seemingly every other week. Bizarre creatures. Odd couple buddy-action-comedy. It’s derivative. So, too, is the traitorous partner element. It’s all been done before which is no great crime in cinema, but then you add in the bad special effects and lifeless action sequences. The central relationship between Bridges’ ridiculous cowboy and Reynolds’ straight guy works better than expected. Bridges’ over-the-top schtick scores some laughs and the two actors are naturally likable.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(679)

Midsommar (2019, Directed by Ari Aster) English 9

Starring Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, William Jackson Harper, Will Poulter, Vilhelm Blomgren

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(9-Great Film)

Beautiful. Disquieting. Distinctive.

     I’m not going to take sides-though it’s largely the male characters who suffer in this film, you could counter that it’s a consequence of their mistakes-but it’s established from the beginning of this two-and-a-half-hour descent that its protagonists, Dani Ardor (Pugh) and Christian Hughes (Reynor), are in a bad relationship, growing more and more toxic, and it’s from this relationship that the rest of the film spews. They’re a ticking time bomb; the kind of couple that ruins parties and makes everyone around them feel awkward. They made me feel awkward sitting in the theater eating Sour Patch Kids. We learn in the opening scene that Christian’s ready to break up with her. His friends, most forcibly Mark, a loudmouth played by Will Poulter, urge him to end things. They have a trip to idyllic Sweden approaching and Mark points out the potential barrage of foreign beauties waiting for them, Christian included if he can simply rip the band-aid off. Dani senses the truth. She has a troubled sister and leans on Christian too much. Instead of breaking up, however, Dani receives a phone call that leaves her shattered, Christian incapable of being honest with her, and the film, Midsommar, off to a gruesome start. And so, instead of a guy’s romp in Sweden for the Summer, Christian brings Dani along, as they visit Hårga, a commune, and home of Pelle, one member of their group. What follows makes Midsommar the wildest film I’ve seen in a long time, a great one and a first-rate horror flick.

    Writer-director, Ari Aster, referred to Midsommar as a ” breakup movie dressed in the clothes of a folk horror film.” Many classic horror flicks build from realistic, fundamental fears. Rosemary’s Baby deals with anxiety about childbirth. The Exorcist features a mother helplessly watching her daughter go through an illness of sorts, but the immediate comparison or influence here is The Wicker Man. Not Nicholas Cage’s hilarious remake but the unforgettable original starring Christopher Lee. You can’t make a film about a sex cult and not be influenced by The Wicker Man. Midsommar even ends with a sinister image of a pyre burning as we process what’s led to this point, but Midsommar is otherwise a very different film. The more apt comparison for me is Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. You have a group of outsiders-Christian, Dani, Josh (Harper), and Mark later joined by Brits, Simon and Connie-who are invited into a secluded, idyllic space and who are slowly excluded one by one after revealing their character. While the temptations in Willy Wonka’s factory were candy and chocolate, the commune in Midsommar seduces with flirtatious red-heads and ancient secrets. It’s emotionally scarred Dani who emerges, like Charlie, victorious in the end. What makes her so worthy? Like with Charlie, I’d say it’s humility. Christian and his group of college graduate students seem awfully entitled; entitled to privileged information, entitled to pissing on trees at random. It’s at the end when Dani wears the crown that Midsommar feels like a sordid fairy tale. To go from albatross around her boyfriend’s neck to become a queen is the stuff of fantasy and works in making Midsommar dreamlike but also touches seriously on how cults operate. They make her feel special, call her queen, and offer an escape from difficulties in reality.

There’s been much said about the look of Midsommar. From the moment the trailer dropped, we’ve known that Aster has fashioned a nightmare in the midst of broad daylight. More than that though, he’s made a film that’s gorgeous; a film that grows in visual splendor as its story becomes increasingly hellish. It’s clear that he’s an exciting new filmmaker with a grim eye for family drama and in his lead, Florence Pugh (previously unfamiliar to me), he’s found an actress of unique, innocent features to carry the weight of all the ugliness of Midsommar. She’s terrific.

If I were pressed to question logic, I would ask the protagonists what they are doing visiting a pagan cult and what did they expect? Unlike the characters in Scream, these guys haven’t seen enough horror flicks apparently, because Midsommar unfolds precisely how you’d expect it to aside from precise, disgusting detail (now I know what the blood eagle is, thank you Ari Aster). That I can know what’s going to happen and still be shocked and floored by how it happens is a sign of tremendous skill and talent by those who made this film.

     -Walter Tyrone Howard-

(649)

Being There: A Masterclass in Buffoonery (1979, Directed by Hal Ashby) English 10

Starring Peter Sellers, Shirley MacLaine, Melvyn Douglas, Jack Warden, Denise DuBarry, Richard A. Dysart

(10-Masterpiece)

Profound. Brilliant. Moving.

Peter Sellers, one of the great film comics of all time, built his persona on being the versatile fool. The bumbling French detective. The sage foreigner crashing a Hollywood party. Whatever the premise, whatever the accent, the joke was on him, and he was loved for it. But he saved his best performance right up until the end as Chance the Gardener in Hal Ashby’s Being There, released in 1979, just one year before his death. While the role is somewhat of a departure for Sellers, it still works largely because of our knowledge of his star image going in. The big difference is that this time instead of us laughing at Sellers’ foolishness, we are laughing at everyone else for not recognizing it.

Being There, adapted from a novel by Jerzy Kosinski, concerns Chance, a man we gather who has worked as a gardener for a wealthy man his whole life. Who his parents are, we’re not told. We also learn pretty early that Chance is unintelligent. After his benefactor dies, Chance is forced out of the house and onto the street. He apparently has never left the house, and we hear from a maid who also worked in the house that he cannot read or write. How can he survive in the world with no skillset outside of gardening, no intelligence, and advanced age? Fate puts Chance in the home of another wealthy man. A woman’s chauffeur hits the simple gardener. As an act of decency or perhaps just to avoid a lawsuit she, Eve (MacLaine) takes him to her mansion and has her doctor look at him. Eventually, he meets the influential Ben Rand (Douglas), the head of the house, the woman’s much older husband, an adviser to the president. Suddenly, Chance, the Gardener, becomes Chancey Gardiner and an instant star in the political world. His common advice about gardening is perceived as profound statements about the United States political landscape. This premise is the basis for Peter Sellers’ best performance and the most personal project he ever worked on. He fought for years to get this film made.

It sounds like a premise for anyone of Seller’s previous broad comedies. An idiot becomes political adviser to the president; a perfect setup for buffoonery. But Being There is not that film, and Peter Sellers does not give that kind of performance. Instead, we are given a profound and gentle satire. There are layers to it.  One level on which the film works is similar to say The Party, another film in which Sellers starred in. A sincere if simple-minded fool earns the respect of his peers through no effort on his part. The deeper level and the great thing that happens in the movie to me (and not everyone may feel this way as the film is very much open to interpretation) is that it sets Chance up as a comic figure- we laugh at how the sophisticated, brilliant upper-class society is taken in by a simpleton, believing him to be a wise man-but eventually I came to view him as a wise man myself. He does not pretend to know things he doesn’t. He only talks when he has something to say. When, in the end, Chance walks on water, I am surprised and then not surprised. Again there have been many interpretations of this scene, but my feeling is that because he doesn’t know that human beings can’t walk on water, he just does it. He almost literally knows no limitations.

So what drew Peter Sellers to this character? Why did he feel he had to play this character? He once said, “Most actors want to play “Othello”, but all I’ve really wanted to play is Chance the Gardiner. I feel what the character, the story is all about is not merely the triumph of a simple man, an illiterate. It’s God’s message again that the meek shall inherit the earth.” I think there is a general feeling of comedians being part of the meek. It is not the popular, great looking men or women who make us laugh in film typically. I can see why Sellers would be drawn to that aspect of the story. He said of himself, “I writhe when I see myself on the screen. I’m such a dreadfully clumsy hulking image. I say to myself, “Why doesn’t he get off? Why doesn’t he get off?” I mean, I look like such an idiot. Some fat awkward thing dredged up from some third-rate drama company. I must stop thinking about it, otherwise, I shan’t be able to go on working.” Also, and this idea was probably not conscious on his part, but there is somewhat of a parallel between Chance, apparently an unfeeling fool who proves to be incredibly sensitive and wise, and Peter Sellers, seen as just a clown and rumored to be a hard, cold personality. Sellers gives Chance a very bland appearance and plays him like a blank slate that slowly becomes a beautiful mystery. Again Sellers said this about himself, and I see it manifested in Chance, “If you ask me to play myself, I will not know what to do. I do not know who or what I am. There used to be a me behind the mask, but I had it surgically removed. To see me as a person on screen would be one of the dullest experiences you could ever wish to experience.” As the last film of his career, while he was alive, Sellers gets to play the Scaramouche for a final time, and then leave us thinking he wasn’t what he seemed, as he walks across the water, more than just a buffoon.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(618)