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If you're interested in how American politics works or doesn't, see this movie now. What a knock-out depressing, inspiring, convoluted, messed up, brilliant piece of work this Otto Preminger film is. Charles Laughton steals the show (his last performance?) as a sleazy southern senator. You won't believe the machinations these people perform in Washington. And while this movie was made decades ago, it's still has so much truth in it today--people set up to be scapegoats, corruption, politics like you've never see it before.
True, this is sometimes touted as a "gay" film because of the one senator who is blackmailed, though is at least bisexual, but the film is more about how the American system is put together.
A frightening, brilliant movie with stellar performances by Don Murray, Henry Fonda, Lew Ayers, Charles Laughton, and a host of others. Fantastic and eye-opening.
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Advise and Consent is really quite a remarkable film. You'd have to search high and low to find a higher-caliber cast, the script's behind-the-scenes look at the reality of politics remains just a relevant today as it was in 1962, and the whole presentation is just flawless. Heck, even Peter Lawford's good in this movie. That Otto Preminger really knew what he was doing; the man still doesn't get all the credit he deserves. I think he must have had his own super-secret superior cameras because the clarity and overall video quality of this film are beyond amazing. This thing looks sharper and better than most movies being churned out today.
The basic premise of the film is rather simple. The President has nominated a controversial man to become Secretary of State, dropping the nomination like a little bomb on his own party and thus setting the stage for a good bit of ugliness in the Senate - with most of the trouble coming from the President's own majority party. On one end, there's a brash, still-wet-behind-the-ears primadonna who wants to use the media attention to make a name for himself; on the other end is an old curmudgeon of the Senate who opposes the nominee largely for personal reasons. The minority party (led by none other than Will "Grandpa Walton" Geer) pretty much sits back and enjoys the show- but this isn't fun and games, at all. The nominee faces charges that he was at one time a Communist, and the back alley manipulations of unscrupulous Senators push the chairman of the relevant subcommittee to the breaking point. The politics of this era played out in exaggeratedly civil terms, but deep down it was just as ugly as anything you'll see today on the floor of the Senate, where civility has quite disappeared.Read more ›
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Otto Preminger's 1962 film Advise And Consent is a compellingly told, but flawed, political thriller, focusing on the anti-communist hysteria prevalent in the US during the 50s/60s period, and also touching on the issue of anti-homosexual paranoia for good measure. The film was one of a number made by Preminger which challenged the existing Hollywood censorship codes and also the anti-communist blacklist. Impressively shot in black-and-white (and at times with a near-documentary feel) by regular Preminger cinematographer Sam Leavitt (who also shot the director's The Man With The Golden Arm and Anatomy Of A Murder), the style, and, to some extent, the content, of the film is reminiscent of the superior films, John Frankenheimer's The Manchurian Candidate and Sidney Lumet's Failsafe.
Overlong at 139 minutes, Advise And Consent gets off to a rather pedestrian start, as the film explores the intricacies of the workings of the US political system (much to the confusion of the watching - and highly patronised - female onlookers). However, the film begins to take a grip on viewer attention as soon as Secretary of State-designate, Robert Leffingwell (played with typical and forthright integrity by Henry Fonda), takes to the Senate witness stand to fend off accusations of communist sympathising levelled by Southern Senator Seabright Cooley, played with ever-increasing assurance (and bluster) by the great Charles Laughton (whose last film this was). These court-room scenes are some of the most effective in the film and also feature a great turn by Burgess Meredith as Leffingwell's accuser Herbert Gelman.Read more ›
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Though now looking somewhat dated and its politics even more so and not being as dramatically interesting as some other true classics of the time (Manchurian Candidate, Witness for the Prosecution etc), there is still much to enjoy in Otto Preminger's political drama.
That's part of its charm, watching old masters such as Charles Laughton (his last film) as a scurrilous old senator, only too willing to do whatever's best for himself and Peter Fonda, as always, steadfast and measured as a candidate who's accused of once belonging to a communist organisation. But, for me, it's Walter Pidgeon's movie as the Senate's Majority Leader - a commanding yet sensitive performance, one you hold onto every word he reassuringly says, even if it's to the contrary.
I'm sure that back in its day (exactly half a century) the topics raised, including homosexual liaisons and blackmail, were the hot potatoes of the day and as every bit as controversial as anything we have today. So, a daring and visionary movie indeed and one that was not guaranteed box office success.
I feel a shorter review is in order here, partly as I believe it's the watching of the film, not the reading about it that is its pleasure, but I will say, that if you enjoy a meaty (OK, lengthy), involved, entertaining, intelligent, but with a smattering of caustic humour and well acted morality/political tale, this should be on your shortlist. If you found pleasure in films like Anatomy of a Murder, Witness for the Prosecution and other well-crafted films of the era, that hint of both nostalgia and slight creakiness, then is a film for you.