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Being there (Hal Ashby, 1979)

A very simple-minded gardener is turned out of his house when his master dies and in search for a TV set he encounters fame and fortune.


This very beautiful, quietly set film is a tour de force of Peter Sellers' comic timing. His character is slow and mostly repeats what everybody says around him. This doesn't only lead to great comic moments, but renders the whole spectacle into a farcical satire. I enjoyed Sellers' dead-pan performance a lot and was amazed by the careful balance that Ashby manages to give the portrayal of the character. Most of the times I was meandering between pity, amusement and even a bit of cringing at Chancy's outrageous actions, or rather, non-actions.

The film is deliberately paced very slowly but has meticulous attention to details in the set and the production design. Many fabulous long shots introduce the characters in their respective settings and leave it up to the actors to fill those lush sets with life. The camera also deserves the notion "dead-pan" - there are few movements, pans and dollies I could remember. I like this tableau-setup of the camera very much, I call them "rectangular shots", lining up the camera in right angle (or sometimes to a 45 degree angle) towards the dominating wall, essentially closing most frames.

The dialogue is cut in standard shot-reverse-shot editing. But as the story progresses, the doctor who is mostly a silent witness to these exchanges is cut to in a close up, detailing his reaction and his mounting skepticism.

Most of the shots set the stage for a coming scene but a few of them used the style of long shots to emphasize a joke or a punch line, like the last shot.

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