Monday, October 6, 2008

Vitajex (A Face in the Crowd)

(video link)

Elia Kazan's 1957 film, A Face in the Crowd explores the arc of media sensation; a trajectory which usually consists of a spike, a (brief) plateau, a descent and a dead drop-- a fall that can pass beyond the zero into the terrain of derision and antipathy. Some manage to jump off the track and find a way to sustain a career of some sort, most seem to burn out, walk away or get booed off the stage.

The cultural references in this film might be lost on some, but the presented themes are eternal and recognizable. One can easily see parallels with the emergence of the media darling, the one-hit wonder and the pop-culture amateurs of Reality Television and the Internet.

Fame, with a capital F, is one of the true enigmas of modern life. Along with the stable of entertainers, public figures and athletes that dominate the halls of Fame, there is an odd branch of the family that consists of a varying assortment of precocious kids, criminals, dead people, hayseed pundits, photogenic victims, average Joes and Joans and outright freaks. These people are the most vulnerable to public opinion. The masses can be merciless and often turn on them, if given proper opportunity. (Even though it's almost certain you will know exactly what I'm saying, this is nothing new, the exact nature of the public and why we act and react the way we do remains at the root of this enigma. Who could have predicted Star Wars Kid?)

Despite director Kazan's capable orchestration of a sprawling ensemble cast, Andy Griffith runs off and shreds his way through the story. He cuts quite a different cast than he did as the sedate and friendly Sheriff Andy Taylor. He almost overshadows the entire film. (I mean that in a good way.)

The production is beautifully supported by the set design, sound and cinematography. It's full of samples, sound-bites and imagery that borders on the surreal, in and out of context. This film is imminently mashable.

It's worth putting in the queue. (Or, you can watch it online via the video link.)

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