Saturday, April 23, 2011

A Face in the Crowd--a review

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Comparisons to familiar subjects aren't always necessary, but A "Face in the Crowd" (1957) is a definite predecessor to 1976's "Network," directed by Sidney Lumet.

Kazan, post "Streetcar," post "East of Eden," in his fluid universe of method acting, introduces Andy Griffith, in this timeless film exploring the danger of media popularity and the subsequent power that comes from it. How in the wrong hands, or with a lack of humility to buffer it, life can spiral out of control for all parties involved. 

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Synopsis: An NPRlike lady radio producer doing fieldwork in a small town jailhouse comes upon a local blues boozing, guitar wielding hustler, whose charms win her over, landing him a daily spot on a radio show. Having free reign to display his everyman philosophies on air in favor of the working class, Lonesome Rhodes becomes an overnight sensation, and climbs the rungs of success all the way to the lavish life of a major celebrity living in New York.


When the swell of influence changes Rhodes into a vain, asshole megalomaniac, his comrades lose faith and mutiny one after another, seeing the walking trainwreck as he truly is--a flash in the pan con artist side show act, who's run hiss course in the show business world. 

What stands out about this film is the feasibility of the next big thing swooning crowds like the plague. Reminiscent of Elvis and the fanfare he rippled in tidal waves with every sway of his hips, all the way to the sensationalism of Howard Stern or Limbaugh. 

The average American craves the reincarnate messiah, the glittering Jesus shrine of accessible human sacrifice, a singing holiday card of tragic sentimentalities to open and close as we please. Knowing at the end of the day, it can all be blamed away on human nature.
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