Wednesday, 28 April 2010

'Why don't you pass the time by playing a little solitaire?'

The Manchurian Candidate
Dir. John Frankenheimer
(1962 United Artits)

East meets West in Frankenheimer's game of solitaire.

A cold-war political thriller with Frank Sinatra. Seeing Frankenheimer's milieu on Cold War politics back in '62 must have been pretty harrowing; the battle of ideologies East v.s West – there really is a hatred in the political rhetoric on screen. Sergeant Raymond Shaw, played by Laurence Harvy, returns from Korea, a war hero, medal of honour in hand. We learn in Korea he was captured along with the rest of his platoon and taken to Manchuria and the story unravels that Shaw has been brainwashed by communists. Everything about the film is cold, yes it's a Cold War, but there are no relationships, it's hard to identify with any of the characters – with Frankenheimer's ambition - it's all war and politics. Military and Presidential iconography peppers every scene and there's no let up, as Frakenheimer strives to illustrate the extremes and similarities of East and West ideology. Sinatra doesn't disappoint, there's a great scene when he's in a cabinet war room looking at a slide show of communists – smoke fills the air and there's a wonderful energy and pace. And he also gives a nice meet and greet with Janet Leigh on the train. But I found Laurence Harvy just incredibly eccentric and alienating as this communist sleeper agent – and Angel Lansbury as his mother was surreal. Maybe that was point – maybe my musings sound convoluted – confusion reigned in Frankenheimer's labyrinth of Pink's and Washington hawks.

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