For Reel

The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
December 14, 2015, 10:53 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: John Frankenheimer
4 Stars
The Manchurian CandidateThe Manchurian Candidate maintains its standing as a vital American satire, as formally inventive and witty as anything released in a decade remembered for cinematic exploration. As with Seconds, director John Frankenheimer shows an uncanny ability to seamlessly develop a relationship between realism and the dreamlike and obscure. The demonstration sequence (in which American soldiers are brainwashed into believing they are attending a garden club attended by old women) is a shocking play of surrealism, its power drawn from the ironic incongruities. As the eponymous weapon, Laurence Harvey gives a performance that even those who admire the film have criticized. But it has actually aged as a brilliant piece of casting, where his very blandness and unlikability is established as a character trait. As the film progresses into Oedipal territory, Harvey is up to the task of delivering a more stylized, highly emotive performance–the contrast of his cold, stubborn persona and the tragic violation of his body establishes him as a multifaceted victim rife with contradictions. Angela Lansbury, on the other hand, is entertaining but pure camp, whereas Harvey is tasked with bringing to life the script’s trickiest and most compelling characterization.

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