a buddha? or a person of subnormal intelligence…

I watched Being There last night via Netflix. I loved it! A hilarious story about an illiterate, mentally slow gardener who accidentally stumbles into high power circles. He inadvertently impresses a dying tycoon with his simple ways, and all kinds of doors start opening up for him. A myth forms around his persona … it takes on a life of its own and has little to do with the man himself and his actual capabilities. I’ve seen this happen in the business world quite a bit. A CEO or other top dog takes a shine to a New Dude. People’s instinct is to follow the leader and embrace New Dude. For a time, whatever New Dude says, people hail as “genius.” Experience unfolds and the reality sets in that New Dude is just like many of the older dudes, but with less organizational baggage. They realize he’s NOT the messiah they’d all hoped for. As for Chauncey Gardiner, brilliantly played by Peter Sellers … you’ll have to see it yourself to decide.

A film prof says:

Being There is a quiet but important fable about society.

The story line centers on a slow-witted gardener named Chance (Peter Sellers), who knows only gardening and what he sees on television, and what transpires when he is suddenly put out into the world. Because Chance speaks so simply and so directly, his words are mistaken for profundities; everything he says is mistaken for a metaphor by the media-mad society. By film’s end, Chance — who has become an adviser, of sorts, to one of the world’s most wealthy men — is spoken of in glowing terms by men seeking a candidate for the presidency.

The often double-edged fable, scripted by Jerzy Kosinski and based on his 1971 novel, looks at a media obsessed society, and particularly at Chance, a man who has been literally drained by television. He is emotionless; he is unaware of his sexuality; his face forever an empty look.

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