on 11 June 2003
There's no 'probably' about this film. This is the best piece of acting ever by Peter Sellers. Best known for his roles in The Goons and Pink Panther series, Sellers outshines them all in this film. It wasn't very well publicised when new, and remains unknown to many. If you like slapstick - forget it. If you want funny voices - forget it. But if you want to see (possibly) the best British actor ever, in a starring role in a film that gives credit to the true professional that he was, then Buy, buy, buy...
on 10 February 2003
I first saw the film when it came out, and it stuck in my memory. Not your typical Sellars (i.e. neither the slapstick of the Pink Panther nor the so-tedious-it-was-funny of The Party), the film is a comedy of manners more than anything else.
In brief, the story revolves around a certain Chauncy "Gardner" (Sellers) who, upon his employer's death, finds himself thrust out into the rude world. A simple man, with no skills to recommend him but gardening, his life outside the estate in which he has lived since his birth starts with a car accident (involving Maclaine) and progresses gently to the point where he is being discussed as a Presidential candidate.
Many fine scenes, some unforgettable lines ("I like to watch.") and an interesting final walk.
on 5 January 2011
A friend had given me a bad vhs version of this film about 20 years ago and since then I have been trying to find this film on sale. At last!
A hugely talented production team tells an incredibly rich story. No special effects - just wonderful acting kept me glued to the screen. The straight-faced comedy is something quite unique - I never thought riding in a lift could be so funny. Peter Sellers had tried to convince the producer to remove the out-takes running behind the final credits as it would break the spell of the film. Although I love out-takes, I agree with Mr Sellers here.
After having watched the film on my bad VHS copy several times this was like a short sighted person wearing glasses for the first time and looking across a mountain range. The images and colour are clear and crisp - a fantastic job has been done in creating this bluray so hats off to those responsible. I have watched lots of newer, blockbuster films that cannot match the quality of this recording. The audio track is also well produced although this is not the type of film to listen to at 130 db making the walls shake.
If you can appreciate a subtle humour and would like to watch a truly remarkable film then this is an absolute must.
on 16 January 2005
Seeing this film for the first time, 25 years on from its original release, two things really hit home. Firstly it's very good - the acting and direction are excellent, it's funny, it's a clever story, and it makes you think. All pretty good credentials for any film. Secondly - and here's where its true brilliance lies - its underlying message hasn't dated at all and, if anything, is more relevant and effective than it was when it was made.
And the message itself? Superficially, it's an exploration of how, in a world dominated by the fleeting demands of mass media, someone with absolutely no knowledge at all can become a megastar and, once established as such, can demand respect and gain power far beyond their capabilities. And, beneath that... well, that's where the fun starts. Is it an exploration of the shallowness of western society? Is it a study of people's weaknesses & needs? Is it a religious allegory? Is it, in terms of most of the characters, a huge tragedy? Is it all or none of these?
The ending, which generates much debate about its "meaning" - is he walking on water in a messianic way or is he simply so stupid that he doesn't realise he's walking, by accident, on a submerged jetty? - is quite brilliant as are the final "over the titles" cuts of Sellers being unable to deliver his deadpan lines without laughing at them, leaving you with the uncomfortable feeling that the "joke" might be on you in trying to read too much into what's on offer here. In the end, of course, it's what you want it to be and that's the whole point of the story - we make people, situations and films themselves into what we want them to be not what they necessarily are. Subtle, enigmatic and, above all, highly entertaining.
In this stimulating comic allegory, Peter Sellers plays Chance who is brilliant as a slow-witted, innocent gardener who becomes destitute when his employer dies, as a former house cleaner of his said that that boy had “rice budding between his ears” and was “short-changed by God”. The gardener's only understanding of the world comes from watching television, for he had never been allowed to leave his home. As the narrative proceeds, the audience are shown that through an odd series of circumstances, Sellers ends up being a close personal advisor to the President of the United States (Jack Warden). His naive pronouncements are professed as reflective insights, to such a degree that he is seriously considered as a Presidential contender.
--------"Life is a state of mind"---------- (One of the pronouncements from the film) -----------
Sellers made this film, a timeless comedy - but wittier than most of the comedy we see in film today. This performance is second, to maybe his role in Lolita and in the Pink Panther series, Sellers is not only funny, Sellers turns in one of his most skilled performances ever, in what would also be one of his last before his sudden death.
Not matter how small your movie tastes are; this is a film that is really worth seeing.
on 1 August 2003
Peter Sellers was nominated for an Academy Award for this, his penultimate film.
As it turned out, The Terrible Revenge of Fu Manchu, was his final film. Really, this should have been his last film -- a beautiful testament to an extraordinary career.
The film is a snapshot of the life of Mr Chancey, played by Sellers.
Chancey is clearly backward and yet manages to convince the other characters that he is some sort of genius and prophet.
Seller's portrayal of Chancey is understated and quite brilliant, the end sequence is startling and revelatory.
This is the greatest film you've never seen.
on 20 May 2009
I don't intend to question the movie, which is excellent indeed. My rating is based on the fact, that this so-called "Deluxe Edition" is only a hoax, a bluff package.
The only bonus material are the recollections of Melvyn Douglas' granddaughter (16 minutes runtime, intercut with scenes from the movie) and the trailer.
Sorry, that's not luxurious, but simply ridiculous. Thanks Warner Bros. for another rip-off.
on 20 February 2011
I had never seen this film, but hearing a friend talk about it I decided to buy it and have just watched it.
The film is a strange unsettling story, about a simple man who works as a gardener, and whose main pleasure in life apart from gardening is watching TV.
After the old man whose garden he works in dies, he lands up out in the big bad world, where his gardening related anecdotes and ability to feed back to people what they want to hear, has him feted as a financial guru. One word of warning, this is a 12 rated film, but there is a sex scene that made uncomfortable viewing with a couple of 14 year olds. Peter Sellers is startlingly good as the main character, just the year before he died, but there is also a strong supporting cast - he certainly doesn't have it all to himself. I though Shirley MacLaine was very good as someone who tried to connect with Sellers character on an emotional level, something he was incapable of. The film was long at 130 minutes, my daughters thought it was too long, and it was quite slowly paced which helped to make its point.
The picture was presented in 1.85:1 effectively filling a wide-screen TV, and was a bit of a mixed bag to be honest. The colours are good, and have a look of the 1970's, but the focus is a bit soft at times and lacking in the detail we have come to expect from blu-ray. So its not reference material, but it is never unpleasant to watch.
Sound quality is ok , the dialogue comes across well - and it isn't a film that depends on a huge soundscape. It can be a little flat, but hearing the speech is always important to me and it certainly achieves that.
So overall this is a key cinema moment that is well worth watching. A great role from Sellers, much less slapstick and straighter than we are used to from him - but I defy you to watch the film without feeling uneasy about how society and the media treats people. It isn't a classic comedy, it's much more complicated than that, and well worth 4 stars.
on 24 August 2008
'Being There' is a film Peter Sellers made right at the end of his career. Whatever you make of this troubled man's life, I think you will agree that the role he plays here, of Chance the gardener, represents a brave exit from the glitzy world of movies. Indeed, Being There could be seen as a satire on the celebrity industry of which Peter Sellers was so much a part.
Chance is a man who has never grown up. Employed for the whole of his existence by a rich man in Washington who has just died, Chance's life has been dominated by gardening, television and little else. His employer's huge house, a home that Chance has never left for a moment, is being sold, and Chance finds himself out on the street, and hopelessly ill-equipped for this encounter with tough reality. He is bemused to discover that unwelcome events, like a mugging, cannot be banished by his television remote. But he has a stroke of luck - he is knocked down by the car of an influential businessman, and he and his wife take Chance under their wing. There is something about Chance that endears him to his hosts - his lack of front, his simple way of relating to others, and his lack of competitive edge. Nobody quite knows what to make of him, Chance the gardener, or Chauncey Gardner as he becomes known - nobody can make out "where he's coming from." Rumours start to spread - his careful advice over what to do in your garden ("Prepare for growth in the spring") is mis-interpreted as a take on the economy from a financial guru. The media feverishly search for information on Chance's past, but there is none to be found. He is thrust into a milieu where he is completely different from anyone else, and is thus completely refreshing. His statements are always literal, which means that no-one believes him. "Are you writing a book?" asks one reporter. "I can't write," replies Chance. "Of course, who of us has time to write these days," replies the hack. But Chance is serious - he can't write, he's never learnt. Everything he says is misunderstood, despite it being completely truthful - and these misunderstandings always seem to make other people happy. Chance is invited onto people's television screens, and his years of watching have prepared him perfectly, for he appears totally at home on the other side of the camera. He has been off society's radar for fifty years and so society cannot get a handle on him.
I think 'Being There' is a deeply spiritual film. Chance is a pure soul, forcibly thrust into an alien world with no defence mechanisms available to him. All he has is his intense love of plants (alongside a keen addiction to television) and somehow this saves him and those around him. His `otherness' is in a way Christ-like. Christ was a threat to those in authority, and Chance is too, in a quiet and puzzling way.
Chance fools the world by telling the truth. In our society, we learn to lie to those beneath us, and to allow those above us to lie to us - if we play it any other way, we are in trouble. Chance just doesn't live those rules, and the world senses that the rules he lives by are the ones that they really want, deep down. There is nothing explicitly religious in this film, but his early life has been that of a hermit monk, an experience that has given him a self that is extraordinarily self-sufficient. Maybe Chance has glimpsed the Kingdom of Heaven by tending a walled garden for forty years, and maybe through him the world glimpses that glimpse.
Strange as it sounds, I saw Being There in Salt Lake City, Utah, in summer 1980. I then came out the cinema and bought a newspaper which told me of the tragically early death of Peter Sellers. There can be no finer tribute to Sellers than the final moments of this film: a voice-over conversation as the powers suggest the dim-witted Chauncey Gardiner (a.k.a. Chance the gardener) should be the next president, the character finds himself walking on water.
This is a beautiful performance from Sellers, a subtle characterisation that communicates the simplicity of Gardiner's thought processes to the audience but allowing the high-powered elite around him to interpret his slow and ponderous words of wisdom about gardening as political allegory bordering on genius. This takes a rare acting talent.
The message of Being There about the how superficial America has become could not be more relevant. Kosinski's sparkling screenplay brings out the triumph of style over substance like few others. As Louise in the film (the maid who once cared for Chance) says: "it could only happen to a white man!"
If you want a moral, it could well be that if you want to succeed, ensure that you wear a good suit at all times!