Being There (1979 – Blu-Ray)

“Shortchanged by the Lord, and dumb as a jackass. Look at him now! Yes, sir, all you’ve gotta be is white in America, to get whatever you want”

1979’s ‘Being There’ is my first encounter with the Director Hal Ashby’s unusual body of work and it’s a fitting swan song to chameleonic comedian Peter Sellers’ career.  He plays Chance, a gentle and perhaps autistic man who has spent his whole life secluded from the outside world in the walled garden of his rich employer.  When the elderly millionaire dies he is cruelly thrust homeless into the world with only the old man’s fine vintage suits and a suitcase.  This satire on American politics and culture really begins when Chance is mistaken for a business man and invited into the home a dying Senator.  Chances’ childlike musings on caring for his garden are taken by all he meets as profound metaphors on politics and economics and existence.

The satire is never as waspish or cutting as other films, it’s on a more profound level of criticism that stays with you long after the closing credits.  Sellers relentlessly pursued the role after reading Jerzy Kosinski’s 1971 book and for a man who said “I feel ghostly unreal until I become somebody else again on the screen” this story of a nobody who becomes all things to all men, must have been very close to heart.  Sadly Sellers would be dead within six months of the film’s release so the final scene of Chance walking away has an extra bittersweet edge.

It speaks of a man’s secret pain when he can only really be honest to an audience of millions and a frog:

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