The Lost movie of the week: The Candidate (1972)

In honour of the presidential election in the USA, it was time to talk about a political movie. A film that was a product of his time even though it presented a candidate which would never have survived the 70s and all its troubles.

Californian lawyer Bill McKay fights for the little man. His charisma and integrity get him noticed by the Democratic Party machine and he is persuaded to run for the Senate against an apparently unassailable incumbent. It’s agreed he can handle it his own way, on his own terms. But once he’s in the race and his prospects begin to improve, the deal starts to change.

In 1971 famous writer Jeremy Larner  received a call from Robert Redford and director Michael Ritchie to ask he didn’t write a movie about a naïve lawyer who gets corrupted by the system.  Larner had written five books and one (“Drive, He Said)  was even turned into a movie by Jack Nicholson. He even worked as a speechwriter for candidate Eugene McCarthy in 1968 for his failed presidential bid. He was the right person for the job creating this interesting character. The film portrays a cynical and shallow campaign where television has a crucial role. A social representation of the time, before the re-election of Nixon (and the Watergate scandal) and just before the end of the Vietnam War. A time where economic recession and oil prices where on the front page of every newspapers.

This political satire arrived just at the beginning of the golden age of naturalistic cinema and a new generation of filmmakers like Scorsese, Coppola, Lucas etc.

Redford portrayal of Bill McKay is a subtle and nuanced one, showing us how a good man can be seduced by power. The film is still very actual and has been seen as one of the best political films of all time. Real politicians are still compared to the character in the film, which also shows that politics rarely changes.

Jeremy Larner  won an Oscar for his film. While the film was also nominated for Best Sound.

Stanley Berenboom

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